Fifty-one immigrants died as the trailer was abandoned in the heat of San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Desperate families of immigrants from Mexico and Central America are desperately searching for the word of their loved ones as authorities began Tuesday the hard work of identifying the 51 people who died after being dropped off in a tractor-trailer without air conditioning in Texas. Heat.

It was the deadliest tragedy to take the lives of migrants smuggled across the border from Mexico.

The driver of the truck and two others were arrested, US Representative in Texas Henry Kuller told the Associated Press.

He said the truck went through a border security checkpoint northeast of Laredo, Texas. At Interstate 35, he did not know if there were any immigrants inside the truck when the checkpoint was removed.

Investigators found the truck’s record in an apartment in San Antonio and detained two men from Mexico for possession of weapons, according to criminal complaints filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The complainants did not make any specific allegations regarding the death.

The bodies were found Monday afternoon on the outskirts of San Antonio, when a city employee heard cries for help from a truck parked on a lonely back road, police chief William McManus said. A few hours later, the body bags spread on the floor.

More than a dozen people – hot to the touch of their bodies – were taken to hospitals, including four children. Most of the dead were men, he said.

The death toll from the abduction attempt in the United States is at an all-time high, according to Craig Larapi, the special agent in charge of homeland security investigations in San Antonio.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Niranberg said, “This is a horror that surpasses anything we have ever experienced. It’s unfortunately a preventable tragedy.”

President Joe Biden called for the deaths “Horrifying and heartbreaking.”

“My administration will do everything possible to prevent human traffickers and hijackers from exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit, as well as the political grandeur surrounding the tragedy.

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Authorities do not know the immigrants’ own country of origin or how long they have been abandoned by the roadside.

On Tuesday afternoon, medical examiners were able to identify 34 of the victims, Bexar District Commissioner Rebecca Clay-Flores said.

Of the dead, 27 are believed to be of Mexican descent, according to documents they took with them, said Mexican Ambassador to San Antonio General Ruben Minutti. He said many of the survivors were in critical condition with injuries such as brain damage and internal bleeding.

At least seven of the dead were from Guatemala and two from Honduras, Roberto Velasco Alvarez, head of the North American department of Mexico’s foreign ministry, said on Twitter. Authorities say about 30 people have approached the Mexican embassy in search of loved ones.

Attempts to cross the US border from Mexico have claimed thousands of lives in both countries in recent decades.

For the first time in at least two decades, U.S. border officials frequently detain immigrants on the southern border. Immigrants were stopped almost 240,000 times in May, a third more than a year ago.

It is difficult to compare the pre-epidemic stages, as evicted immigrants under the so-called Public Health Authority, Chapter 42, face no legal consequences and encourage repeated efforts. Officials say 25% of meetings in May were with those who had been stopped at least once in the previous year.

South Texas has long been a hotbed of illegal crossing. U.S. officials have found trucks with “pretty close” immigrants daily, Laraby said.

Immigrants typically pay between $ 8,000 and $ 10,000 and are loaded across the border into a tractor-trailer and taken to San Antonio, where they transfer their final destinations to smaller destinations across the United States, he said.

Conditions vary widely, including how much water passengers receive and whether they are allowed to carry cell phones, Laraby said.

Authorities believe the truck, which was discovered Monday in an area of ​​San Antonio next to a railroad that was surrounded by vehicle scrapboards, was brushing against a busy freeway, Wolf said.

San Antonio has been the scene of a series of tragedies and despair involving immigrants in semitrailers in recent years.

In 2017, ten immigrants died After getting stuck in a truck parked at Walmart in San Antonio. In 2003, the bodies of 19 immigrants were found in a truck in the southeast of the city. In 2018, more than 50 immigrants were found alive in a trailer, driven by a man who demanded $ 3,000 and sentenced to more than five years in prison.

Other tragedies occurred long before immigrants reached the United States in December, when more than 50 people were killed when a half-trailer overturned on a highway in southern Mexico. In October, Mexican authorities said they had found 652 immigrants in six trailers Stopped at a military checkpoint near the border.

Some of the 16 people who were taken to hospitals with heat-related illnesses were admitted to hospital on Tuesday in critical condition.

Those taken to the hospital were hot to the touch and dehydrated, and there was no water in the trailer, fire chief Charles Hood said.

“They suffered from heat stroke and fatigue,” Hood said. “It was an air-conditioned tractor-trailer, but no working AC unit was found on that rig.”

The temperature in San Antonio on Monday was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).

In the early 1990s, Big Rick emerged as a popular kidnapping system amid the rise of US border enforcement in San Diego and El Paso, Texas.

Before that, people paid small fees to cross the largely unsecured border. As it became harder to cross in the United States after the 2001 terrorist attacks, immigrants were driven through more dangerous terrain and had to pay thousands of dollars.

Some lawyers made a link to the Biden administration’s border policies. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director for the U.S. Immigration Council, wrote that he had been fearful of such a tragedy for months.

“As the border is closed as tightly as it is today for immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people are being pushed into more and more dangerous paths,” he wrote on Twitter.

Immigrants – mostly from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – have been deported more than 2 million times under the epidemic rule in effect since March 2020, denying them the opportunity to seek asylum. The Biden administration planned to end the policy, but a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the move in May.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recorded 557 deaths on the southwest border in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, more than double the 247 deaths recorded in the previous year and the highest since surveillance began in 1998. Most are related to heat exposure.

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Spot reported from San Diego. Associated Press reporters include Acacia Coronado in Austin, Ken Miller in Oklahoma and Terry Wallace in Dallas.

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