People smuggling in Texas: After migrant found dead in truck in San Antonio, US works with 53 ID victims

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The victim was found with no identification and in one case stolen ID. Remote villages lack telephone service to contact family members and locate missing migrants. Fingerprint data must be shared and matched with different governments.

More than a day after the discovery of a stuffy trailer in San Antonio where dozens of migrants died after being abandoned in the sweltering heat, few of the victims’ identities have been made public. illustrates the challenges authorities face in tracking people who cross borders secretly.

The death toll rose to 53 on Wednesday after two more migrants died, according to the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office. Forty of the victims were male and 13 were female.

Officials were able to identify 37 victims as of Wednesday morning, pending verification with authorities in other countries.

“It’s been a tedious, tedious, sad and difficult process,” said Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores, who represents the county where the truck was abandoned.

SEE ALSO: ‘It was heartbreaking for me to watch my sister die,’ smuggling attempt survivor talks about journey to the US

The bodies were discovered Monday afternoon on the outskirts of San Antonio in what is believed to be the nation’s deadliest smuggling on the US-Mexico border. More than a dozen people were taken to hospital, including four children. Three people were arrested.

On Wednesday, Francisco Garduño, director of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, said the truck, registered in Alamo, Texas, but with fake license plates and logos, was carrying 67 migrants.

The driver was arrested after trying to pretend to be one of the migrants, Mr. Garduño said. Two other Mexican men have also been detained, he said.

Among the dead were 27 from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador, he said. Garduño said one of the victims had no identification.

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The tragedy comes at a time when large numbers of people have migrated to the US, many of them taking risks to cross fast-flowing rivers, canals and scorching desert landscapes. Migrants were stopped nearly 240,000 times in May, up a third from a year ago.

With little information on the victims, desperate families of migrants from Mexico and Central America frantically searched for information about their loved ones.

According to Rubén Minutti, Mexican consul general in San Antonio, some of the survivors were in critical condition with injuries such as brain damage and internal bleeding.

Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry said late Tuesday that it had confirmed two Guatemalans hospitalized and was working to identify three Guatemalans who may have been among the dead. The Honduran Foreign Ministry said it was trying to confirm the identities of four of the dead who were carrying Honduran documents.

Eva Ferrufino, a spokeswoman for the Honduran Foreign Ministry, said her agency is working with the Honduran Consulate in south Texas to match names, fingerprints and complete identities.

The process is difficult because among the pitfalls are fake or stolen documents.

SEE ALSO: ‘Not the Time to Start Transforming Fears:’ Advocates Believe Open Borders Will Stop Serious Cases

Mexico’s foreign minister identified two people Tuesday who were hospitalized in San Antonio. But it turns out that one of the identification cards he shared on Twitter was stolen last year in the southern state of Chiapas.

Haneydi Antonio Guzman, 23, was safe in a mountain community more than 1,300 miles (2,092 km) from San Antonio when she started receiving texts from family and friends. There was no phone signal there, but she could access the Internet.

Journalists began arriving at her parents’ home in Escuintla – the address on her identification was stolen and found in the truck – hoping to find her worried relatives.

“It’s me on ID, but I’m not the one in the trailer and they say I’m hospitalized,” Antonio Guzman said.

“My relatives contacted me and worried, asking where I was,” she said. “I told them I was fine, that I was in my house, and I made that clear on my Facebook page.”

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard deleted his tweet identifying her without comment. The other victim Ebrard identified turned out to be correct.

In the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, city officials in San Miguel Huautla traveled to the community of 32-year-old José Luis Vásquez Guzmán late Tuesday to find out if his mother wanted to go to San Antonio to be with him. in the hospital or not. .

Manuel Velasco López, the city secretary of San Miguel Huautla, said that a cousin was traveling with Vásquez Guzmán and is now considered missing.

Another cousin, Alejandro López, told Mexico’s Milenio TV channel that their family was in agriculture and construction and they emigrated because “we had nothing but to weave hats, brushes and crafts.”

“Growing corn, wheat and beans is what we do in this area and that leads to a lot of our people emigrating and coming to the United States,” he said.

Miguel Barbosa, the governor of neighboring Puebla state, started a scramble for information in the town of Izucar de Matamoros on Tuesday when he said that two of the dead were from there, although it has not been confirmed. confirm.

In the town teeming with migrants, everyone asked their friends or neighbors if they were among the dead found in Texas. Trying to cross the border to the United States is a tradition that most of the young people in town consider it to be.

Migrant activist Carmelo Castañeda, who works with the nonprofit Casa del Migrante, said: “All young people start thinking about going (to the US) as soon as they are 18 years old. “Without more visas, our people will continue to die.”

Craig Larrabee, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio.

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Homeland Security investigators believe the migrants boarded trucks to or around Laredo, on U.S. soil, but have not confirmed that. . He said the truck passed a Border Patrol checkpoint northeast of Laredo on Interstate 35 on Monday.

Before departing on a more than two-hour trip to San Antonio, the truck was parked Monday in South Texas, just north of the border, Garduño said.

Authorities allege the truck had mechanical problems when it was left next to the tracks in an area of ​​San Antonio surrounded by automated scrap yards located on a busy highway, the judge said. Nelson Wolff of Bexar County said.

San Antonio has replayed the tragedy and despair of recent years involving migrants in busts.

Ten migrants died in 2017 after becoming trapped inside a van parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. In 2003, the bodies of 19 migrants were found in a stuffy truck in the southeast of the city.

Other tragedies happened before the migrants arrived in America. In December, more than 50 people died when a semicircular dragon rolled over a highway in southern Mexico.

During Tuesday’s vigil at a San Antonio park, many of the more than 50 attendees expressed sadness and anger at the deaths and what they described as a broken immigration system. broken.

Back in Puebla, farmer Juan Sánchez Carrillo, 45, became ill when he heard the news of the deaths in Texas.

He narrowly escaped death as he and his friends fled dozing off migrants in the mountains near Otay Mesa near San Diego.

“For smugglers, we migrants are not human,” said Sánchez Carrillo. “For them, we are nothing more than goods.”


Associated Press writer Juan Lozano of San Antonio; Elliot Spagat in San Diego; Edgar H. Clemente of Villa Comaltitlan, Mexico; Sonia D. Perez of Guatemala City and Marlon Gonzalez of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, contributed to this report.

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