At least 40 people were found dead in the back of a San Antonio tractor trailer

SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Forty-six people were found dead in and near a tractor trailer and 16 others were taken to hospital in an alleged attempt to smuggle migrants into the United States, San Antonio officials said.

It is among the deadliest tragedies that have claimed thousands of lives of people who tried to cross the border into the United States from Mexico in recent decades. Ten migrants died in 2017 after being trapped inside a truck parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. In 2003, 19 migrants were found in a burning truck southeast of San Antonio.

An on-site city worker on a remote highway in southwest San Antonio was alerted to the situation by a call for help just before 6 p.m. Monday, Police Chief William McManus said. Officers arrived to find a body on the ground outside the trailer and a partially opened gate to the trailer, he said.

Of the 16 who were taken to hospital with heat-related illnesses, 12 were adults and four children, said Fire Chief Charles Hood. The patients were hot to the touch and dehydrated, and no water was found in the trailer, he said.

“They suffered from heatstroke and exhaustion,” Hood said. “It was a refrigerated tractor trailer, but there was no visible working AC unit on that rig.”

Hood said that none of the 16 who were found alive managed to get out of the trailer – they all had to be helped out. He also said there was “no sign of water in the truck,” reports Nexstar’s KXAN.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the 46 who died had “families who were probably trying to find a better life.”

“This is nothing short of a terrible human tragedy,” Nirenberg said.

According to Hood, all 46 people found were dead adults.

Those in the trailer were part of a suspected migrant smuggling attempt into the United States, and the investigation was led by US Homeland Security Investigations, McManus said.

Three people were taken into custody, but it was unclear whether they were absolutely connected to human trafficking, McManus said.

Large rigs emerged as a popular smuggling method in the early 1990s, amid an increase in U.S. border enforcement in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, which were then the busiest corridors for illegal crossings.

Before that, people paid small fees to mom-and-pop operators to get them over a largely unguarded border. As the crossing became exponentially more difficult after the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, migrants were led through more dangerous terrain and paid thousands of dollars more.

Heat poses a serious danger, especially when the temperature can rise sharply inside vehicles. The weather in the San Antonio area was mostly cloudy on Monday, but temperatures approached 100 degrees.

Some spokesmen drew a link to the Biden administration’s border policy. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, director of policy at the American Immigration Council, wrote that he had dreaded such a tragedy for several months.

“With the border closed as close as it is today to migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people have been forced into more and more dangerous routes. Truck smuggling is a way up “, he wrote on Twitter.

Stephen Miller, a chief architect of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, said: “Human traffickers and human traffickers are evil and evil” and that the administration’s approach to border security rewards their actions.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican running for re-election, was sharp in a tweet about the Democratic president: “These deaths are on Biden. They are the result of his deadly open border policy. “

Migrants – mainly from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – have been deported more than 2 million times under a pandemic rule that has been in place since March 2020 that denies them a chance to seek asylum, but encourages repeated attempts because it there are no legal consequences to being caught. People from other countries, especially Cuba, Nicaragua and Colombia, are less likely to be subject to the title 42 authority due to higher costs of sending them home, strained diplomatic relations and other considerations.

US Customs and Border Protection reported 557 deaths at the southwestern border in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, more than double the 247 deaths reported the year before and the highest since it began tracking in 1998. Most are related to heat exposure.

CBP has not published death figures for this year, but said that the border patrol carried out 14,278 “search-and-rescue missions” during a seven-month period up to and including May, which exceeded the 12,833 missions performed during the previous The 12-month period and up from 5,071 the year before.