According to officials, 46 people were found dead and 16 others were taken to hospitals Monday after a tractor-trailer carrying suspected migrants was discovered abandoned in a remote area of San Antonio amid soaring temperatures in Texas.
According to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, a city worker discovered the gruesome scene after hearing a cry for help from the truck shortly before 6 p.m. Monday. Hours later, body bags lay on the ground near the trailer as a grim reminder of the tragedy.
Fire Department Chief Charles Hood said that 16 people found inside the truck are being treated at a hospital, including 12 adults and four children, whom he referred to as teenagers and young adults. Hood claims that none of those who died were children.
“They were suffering from heat stroke and heat exhaustion,” Hood said, later adding that the semi-truck had no signs of water or a working air conditioning unit.
The immigrants’ home countries and how long they were abandoned on the side of the road were not immediately known.
Those who were still alive, according to Hood, were too weak to help themselves out of the truck. According to the National Weather Service, high temperatures in the San Antonio area were expected to reach the 90s to near 100 degrees on Monday.
McManus confirmed the arrests on Monday, adding, “We don’t know if they are absolutely connected to this or not.”
McManus stated that the investigation has been turned over to federal authorities. The deaths, according to San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, were “nothing short of a horrific human tragedy.”
The deaths on Monday are the most recent incident that officials believe are related to border crossings. In March 2021, 13 people were killed, including the driver, when an SUV carrying at least 25 migrants who had entered the country illegally collided with a semi-truck in Southern California.
Months later, a van carrying 29 suspected migrants crashed in rural southern Texas, killing at least ten people and injuring twenty more.
In previous years, the number of undocumented migrants crossing typically decreased during the summer months, as many sought to avoid the deadly summer heat. As a result of U.S. policies that delay their entry and deteriorating conditions in their home countries, more asylum seekers have attempted to enter during the summer, prompting U.S. Border Patrol officials to issue warnings and train their agents to help keep migrants from dying in the sun.
“We know there’s been an increase in the volume of migrants crossing the border in the last six to twelve months,” Nirenberg said.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics released earlier this month, border agents and officials encountered 239,416 migrants at the southwest border in May, up from 180,597 the previous May. Although June figures are still being compiled, migrant shelter officials anticipate similar high numbers to last year, when more than 189,304 migrants crossed the border, a two-decade high.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican running for reelection who has criticized President Joe Biden’s immigration policy, was quick to blame the deaths on the president.
“These deaths are the fault of Biden. They are the result of his lethal open border policies “Abbott stated this on Twitter. “They demonstrate the lethal consequences of his failure to enforce the law.”
Rubén Minutti Zanatta, Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio, said in a tweet on Monday night that he was waiting outside San Antonio for federal authorities to release the nationalities of the deceased.
According to Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, two of the 16 injured were Guatemalans.