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Monday, August 8, 2022

The Texas tragedy trailer cleared two US security checks without the migrants being spotted

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Authorities have released new revelations about the alerts that failed to prevent the Texas tragedy. The trailer leaving 67 migrants in San Antonio got through two security checkpoints in the United States without noticing that dozens of people were hiding in the box. This was announced by the director of the National Institute for Migration of Mexico, Francisco Garduño, at a press conference on Wednesday. Governments on both sides of the border have added that three suspects are being held: one American and two Mexicans. As identification of the dead and wounded progresses, the death toll has risen to 53 after two more people who were hospitalized at clinics in the area died, according to the latest update from the Bexar County Forensic Service.

Three out of four migrants killed were men. The greatest migration tragedy of all time on US soil has claimed the lives of 40 men and 13 women, local authorities said in a statement. In the absence of fingerprint-confirmed nationalities, the investigative work determined that at least 27 Mexicans died, along with 14 Hondurans, seven Guatemalans and two Salvadorans, according to preliminary figures provided by the Mexican government. It is expected that in the coming days all the victims will be able to be identified using the data from the forensic service and the national population registers of the countries of origin: so far the identities of 37 people have been confirmed.

There are still 14 people who are hospitalized at six hospitals and are being treated after showing symptoms of extreme dehydration, bleeding and kidney, liver and neurological failure. As of Tuesday afternoon, most were reported in serious condition. At least three Mexicans and one Guatemalan are known to be among the survivors, but the nationalities of the two people who died after being taken to the clinics is still unknown.

The latest report presented by the Mexican government allows us to reconstruct the last hours in the tragedy’s timeline. The trailer traveled more than 140 miles on Highway 35, which criss-crosses Texas from the border with Mexico to major cities in the state’s north, before reaching the point where it was abandoned 30 miles from San Antonio. The truck passed the first Border Protection Agency (CBP) checkpoint in Encinal, a small town 56 kilometers from the border with the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, at 2:50 p.m. Monday. Surveillance cameras captured the driver, who was wearing a black cap and striped shirt. It is the last picture of the truck before the tragedy. About 50 kilometers later he was arrested again at a CBP checkpoint in the municipality of Cotulla. The vehicle was parked next to the train tracks that run parallel to the highway at a lost and secluded exit and was found by US agents by 6:20 p.m., when at least 47 migrants had already died from overcrowding, suffocation and dehydration.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus confirmed Wednesday that one of the three arrested is the driver of the truck. The man, identified as Homero N (his surname was not released during the investigation), attempted to flee on foot after abandoning the migrants to their fate and posed as one of the survivors, according to authorities from both countries. The other two arrests were made when police entered a home in San Antonio where the trailer was registered. They are two men of Mexican nationality in an irregular situation. Both are in federal custody and are currently charged with gun possession. “No data on the person accused of driving the trailer was found in the records of the National Migration Institute. The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that the three individuals are being held on suspicion of human trafficking and murder,” Garduño said.

The truck, a red 1995 Volvo, was registered to a San Antonio company and appeared to be just another vehicle in their fleet. The company’s owners, Betancourt Trucking and Harvesting, told the local press that the trailer had been “cloned” and did not belong to their company. This is one of the strongest hypotheses to explain how the driver managed to avoid the checkpoints. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said hours after the discovery that the US license plates overlapped and were believed to be fake. Texas authorities confirmed that “cloned vehicles are common in this area.” “We’ve served drivers from FedEx and UPS who say their magnetic tags were stolen,” said Eusebio Salinas, Zavala County Sheriff, which lies between the border and San Antonio.

Former director of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service during the Trump administration, Tom Homan, pointed out that in recent times the Mafia has stepped up the format of migrant trafficking through large mobile homes. “For a year I have been warning that such a tragedy will happen due to the increase in truck smuggling,” he told a local media outlet. Last month, police intercepted another truck carrying 88 people hiding in a truck in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. And in May, two men were arrested near the Texas border for packing another 124 migrants into a trailer. Last December, 57 migrants died after a vehicle overturned in the Mexican state of Chiapas near the border with Guatemala.

Border control was one of the open fronts of the Joe Biden administration, but the tragedy has led to two diametrically opposed readings. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and members of the Republican Party blame Biden directly, blaming the porosity of the border and his “open-door policy” for what happened. Immigration organizations and Democratic politicians argue that what happened is an example of the desperation and risks faced by those making the journey to a country that has closed its doors to asylum seekers for more than two years . In the background are the elections next November to renew a third of the Senate.

The authorities of the United States, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras are in constant coordination to advance the identification of the victims, assist the families and advance the investigation. So far, the names of those affected have not been released. Authorities are still trying to determine the truck’s origin and whether crimes were committed en route to central Texas, another of the unknowns reigning in a tragedy that has mourned five countries.

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