In a suspected case of human smuggling, dozens of individuals were discovered inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas, on Tuesday, leaving at least 51 people dead, according to local authorities.
39 males and 12 women are among the 51 bodies held by the medical examiner’s office, according to Rebeca Clay-Flores, the commissioner for Bexar County Precinct 1. According to her, several of those discovered are younger than 18, perhaps teenagers.
According to Homeland Security Investigations, when they arrived on the scene Monday evening, they first discovered more than 40 bodies.
According to information from U.S. officials cited by Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, at least 50 people have died, including 22 Mexicans, 7 Guatemalans, and 2 Hondurans. According to Ebrard, the identities of the other victims are still unknown, and Mexico is collaborating with the United States on the inquiry.
“We are in mourning,” Ebrard said in a statement Tuesday via Twitter. “Huge tragedy.”
Officials announced at a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon that at least 34 of the victims have been identified.
According to San Antonio Police Chief Bill McManus and San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood, the tragedy occurred on Monday at around 5:50 p.m. local time when a nearby worker heard a cry for help and discovered the tractor-trailer with the doors only partially open and the bodies of 46 people inside.
In what authorities described as a “mass casualty occurrence,” a further 16 persons, including 12 adults and 4 children, were sent to local hospitals.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Chris Magnus told reporters he was “horrified” by the occurrence.
“Horrified at this tragic loss of life near San Antonio,” Magnus said Monday. “This speaks to the desperation of migrants who would put their lives in the hands of callous human smugglers who show no regard for human life.”
According to Hood, the trailer was refrigerated but lacked an apparent working air conditioner and showed no signs of having water inside.
According to McManus, three people have been detained in relation to the event, and the case is currently under federal investigation. According to McManus, one of the suspects was a driver who was seen fleeing the area by an onlooker who contacted 911.
The meat tenderizer, which was allegedly applied to the remains before the suspects fled, was said to have an overwhelming odour, according to Hood, who spoke to media.
According to Hood, the victims who were carried to hospitals were all hot to the touch and had heat exhaustion and heat stroke. According to what the authorities are now aware of, there were no child fatalities.
Hood added, “They suffered horribly and may have done so for hours.
In addition to Spanish prayer cards and a brand-new pair of Air Jordans, according to Hood, there were personal belongings recovered close to where the victims were discovered.
In a statement released on Tuesday, President Joe Biden referred to the fatalities as “horrifying and devastating” and accused the illegal smuggling sector of preying on refugees. Additionally, Biden emphasised the anti-smuggling initiative the United States and its allies had started, claiming they have resulted in over 2,400 arrests.
“Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy, and my Administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry,” Biden said.
According to a representative for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), more than 40 people were verified dead when Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrived at the scene after responding to a call about an alleged human smuggling incident on Monday.
“HSI continues its enforcement efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of our communities. We will continue to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of those smuggled,” the ICE spokesperson said in a statement. “To report suspicious activity, we encourage people to call the HSI Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. All calls are kept confidential.”
The ICE division known as HSI is in charge of dismantling smuggling networks.
The ICE official stated, “Details will be given when they become available, the criminal investigation is still underway.” “HSI continues its enforcement efforts to maintain our communities’ safety and wellbeing,”
According to the San Antonio Fire Department, HSI and CBP are taking over the investigation from local law enforcement.
According to Magnus, the CBP commissioner, CBP is the parent organisation of the U.S. Border Patrol, which reacted to the incident to provide assistance and is assisting ICE in the federal investigation.
Magnus told reporters Monday night, “We will be working with our federal, state, and local colleagues to assist in every manner necessary with this inquiry.
The Biden administration will “continue to take steps to dismantle human smuggling networks which have no respect for people,” according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people who sadly lost their lives, their family members, and the those who are still trying to survive. Additionally, we appreciate the quick action of first responders from the federal, state, and local levels “Tuesday, Jean-Pierre told journalists.
When asked about the criticism from Republicans who claim that Biden’s border policies have caused immigrant travels to be hazardous, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Jean-Pierre stated that the White House is focused on the victims and their families.
“But the fact of the matter is, the border is closed, which is in part why you see people trying to make this dangerous journey using smuggling networks,” Jean-Pierre said.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas took to Twitter to say that he was “heartbroken by the tragic loss of life today and am praying for those still fighting for their lives.”
He tweeted on Monday night, “Far too many lives have been lost as folks — including families, women, and children — pursue this deadly journey. “Human smugglers are cold-blooded people who don’t care about the helpless people they exploit and put in risk for financial gain. In order to hold those liable for this tragedy and continue our efforts to dismantle smuggling networks, we will engage with our allies.”
In conjunction with the Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security provided additional information on the Biden administration’s initiatives to stop irregular migration and human smuggling.
The Western Hemisphere has seen a number of operations undertaken as part of the largest crackdown on human smuggling ever seen in the area, which has seen more than 1,300 people deployed and nearly 2,000 smugglers detained in only two months.
To disrupt smuggling activities in real-time and deplete the financial resources of the transnational criminal organisations that plan and carry out these crimes, agencies from throughout the government, including the intelligence community and the U.S. Treasury Department, have joined forces.
“The Biden administration is focused on putting these organizations out of business,” DHS said in a recent statement prior to Monday’s incident. “But human smuggling is, by definition, a transnational problem and we are committed to working with our regional partners in the Americas to commit our collective expertise and resources to put an end to human smuggling.”
Aryan Jakhar works as an Editor-in-Chief at The Shining Media. Also, he is an editor at YouthPolitician (digital media situated in Taiwan). He writes his opinions on social issues at YouthKiAwaaz and also on his blogger website.