Efforts to identify the dozens of migrants found dead in a tractor trailer in San Antonio has proven to be a slow effort for officials, as many of the fatalities carry no — or in some cases, stolen — identification. Efforts to contact victims’ family members has also been difficult due to their remoteness.
Meanwhile, the number of total deaths has now reached 53, up from the initial 46 Monday. Originally, 16 people were hospitalized, with at least 13 in critical condition. 40 of the victims were male, while 13 were female.
According to officials, 37 of the victims had been potentially identified Wednesday morning. The victims’ suspected origins vary, with some from Honduras, Mexico, and Guatemala. The tragedy is now being called the deadliest U.S. smuggling incident in history.
Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores explained the stage of identification is a “tedious, sad, difficult process.” Meanwhile, mourning the deaths, San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg stated that the victims had families “who were likely trying to find a better life.”
“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy. This is a horror that surpasses anything we’ve experienced before.”
President Joe Biden was equally horrified at the deaths, saying the situation underscores “the need to go after the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and leading to far too many innocent deaths.”
Stepping into the non-air conditioned trailer was sadly a fatal decision for the migrants, who were forced to endure the Texas weather that can reach up to highs of 100 degrees. The total group of 67, covered in steak seasoning to avoid authorities, was abandoned in the vehicle, where they proceeded to suffer from heat strokes and heat exhaustion.
While the truck has been registered in Alamo, Texas, it possessed fake numbers and plates. The road it was discovered on is referred to by locals as “lo boca del lobo,” which in English translates to “the mouth of the wolf” due to its remoteness.
According to Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, the driver of the vehicle was apprehended after pretending to be one of the migrants, while two other men have been arrested. The road is located around 150 miles North of the U.S.-Mexico border.
CBP commissioner Chris Magnus previously warned that smugglers like those apprehended will continue to take advantage of desperate migrants for financial gain. Typically, migrants pay around $8,000 to $10,000 for transportation in tractor trailers and smaller vehicles.
“The terrain along the Southwest Border is extreme, the summer heat is severe, and the miles of desert that migrants must hike after crossing the border are unforgiving,” Magnus explained.
“Our message to those who would try and gain illegal entry to the United States remains the same – don’t make the dangerous journey only to be sent back.”
At the end of 2021, over 1.5 million migrants had arrived at and crossed the border, the highest total in 20 years. It forced the U.S. border control to make 1.6 million apprehensions, a figure not seen since 1986. According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) report, 239,416 migrants crossed over in May, a 2% increase from April. 25% of that group has attempted to cross more than once.
The risks that migrants take crossing the desert through scorching heat have costed heavy tolls. So far in 2022, 290 migrants have died attempting to secure access into the U.S. 2021 saw 650 deaths at the border, the highest number since the International Organization of Migration began tracking in 2014.
Andrew Rhoades is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. A Saint Joseph’s University graduate, Rhoades’ reporting includes sports, U.S., and entertainment. You can reach him at email@example.com.