Dozens of migrants have died after being dropped off in extreme heat a day after a staggering trailer was discovered in San Antonio, revealing some of the victims’ identities, which illustrates the challenges authorities face in locating people crossing the border in secret.
The death toll rose to 53 on Wednesday following the deaths of two more immigrants, according to the Pexar County Medical Examiner’s Office. It said 40 of the victims were men and 13 were women.
Authorities had the possible identities of 37 of the victims as of Wednesday morning, and verification is pending with authorities in other countries.
“It was a tough, tough, sad, tough act,” said Rebecca Clay-Flores, Bexar District Commissioner representing the district where the truck was abandoned.
Further: The survivor of the abduction attempt said of the trip to the US, ‘It was very painful to see my sister dead
The bodies were found Monday afternoon on the outskirts of San Antonio, which is considered the nation’s deadliest kidnapping episode on the U.S.-Mexico border. More than a dozen people, including four children, were taken to hospitals. Three people have been arrested.
The truck, which was registered in Alamo, Texas, but had fake plates and logos, was carrying 67 immigrants, Mexico’s National Immigration Agency head Francisco Cardano said Wednesday.
The driver was arrested after he tried to pretend to be one of the immigrants, Cardano said. Two more Mexican men have been arrested, he said.
He said the dead included 27 from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador. None of the victims were identified, Cardono said.
Related: How the deadly kidnapping incident in the United States unfolded in Victoria, Texas
The tragedy occurred at a time when large numbers of immigrants were arriving in the United States, many of whom were taking risks to cross rapid rivers and canals and burning desert lands. Immigrants were stopped almost 240,000 times in May, a third more than a year ago.
With little information about the victims, distrustful families of immigrants from Mexico and Central America frantically searched for their loved ones.
According to Mexican Ambassador General San Ruben Minutti in San Antonio, the survivors were in critical condition with injuries such as brain damage and internal bleeding.
Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday that two Guatemalans had been admitted to hospital and were working to identify three Guatemalans. Honduras’ foreign ministry said it was trying to confirm the identities of four of the dead who carried the Honduran documents.
Honduran Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Eva Ferrufino said her company was working with the Honduran consulate in South Texas to match names, fingerprints and identities.
This process is difficult because the risks include forged or stolen documents.
See also: ‘This is not the time to panic:’ the lawyer believes the open border will stop serious incidents
The two were admitted to a hospital in San Antonio and were identified Tuesday by Mexico’s foreign secretary. But one of the identity cards he shared on Twitter was revealed to have been stolen last year in the southern state of Chiapas.
Honidi Antonio Guzman, 23, was safe in the mountain community 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers) from San Antonio when he began receiving messages from family and friends. There is no telephone signal, but she has internet access.
Journalists began arriving at his parents’ home in Esquintla – the address on his ID that had been stolen and on the truck – expecting to find his relatives concerned.
“They say I’m the one in the ID, but not the person in the trailer, who was admitted to the hospital,” said Antonio Guzman.
“My relatives contacted me with concern and asked where I was,” he said. “I’m fine, I told them I was in my house, and I made that clear on my Facebook page.
Secretary of State Marcelo Ebrat has identified himself and deleted his tweet without comment. The identity of the other victim Ephraim identified is accurate.
In the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, municipal officials in San Miguel Huatla went to the community of 32-year-old Jose Luis Vazquez Guzmn late Tuesday to see if his mother wanted to stay in the hospital in San Antonio. .
Manuel Velasco Lopez, the municipal secretary of San Miguel Huatla, said a relative had traveled with Vasquez Guzmn and that he was currently thought to be missing.
Another relative, Alejandro Lopez, told Milinio Television in Mexico that their family was involved in farming and construction and that they had been displaced “because we have nothing but hats, palms and handicrafts.”
“What we do in this region is grow corn, wheat and beans, and a lot of our people emigrate to the United States,” he said.
Miguel Barbosa, governor of the neighboring state of Puebla, launched a campaign for information in the town of Izcar de Madamoros on Tuesday, saying two of the dead were from there, although it has not been confirmed.
In a heavily immigrant city, everyone asks if their friends or neighbors are among the dead found in Texas. Trying to enter the United States is a tradition that most young people in the city at least consider it.
“All young people start thinking about moving (to the United States) when they turn 18,” said Carmelo Castañeda, an immigrant activist who works with the non-profit Casa del Migrante. “If there are no more visas, our people will continue to die.”
Immigrants typically pay between $ 8,000 and $ 10,000, loaded onto a tractor-trailer, and flown to San Antonio for smaller vehicles to travel to their final destinations across the United States, said Special Agent in charge Craig Laraby. Homeland Security investigations in San Antonio.
U.S. Representative Henry Kuller told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Homeland Security officials believe the immigrants boarded a truck in or around Laredo on U.S. soil, but did not confirm this. He said the truck passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint northeast of Loreto on Interstate 35 on Monday.
Cardano said the truck was parked Monday north of the border in southern Texas, before making the more than two-hour voyage to San Antonio.
Beckhar District Judge Nelson Wolf said authorities believe the truck had mechanical problems next to a railroad in an area of San Antonio, and that auto scrapards around it were brushing against a busy highway.
San Antonio has been the scene of a series of tragedies and despair involving immigrants in semitrailers in recent years.
In 2017, 10 immigrants were killed when they were trapped inside a truck parked in Walmart, San Antonio. In 2003, the bodies of 19 immigrants were found in a truck in the southeast of the city.
Other tragedies occurred 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.
During a vigil in San Antonio Park on Tuesday, many of the more than 50 people in attendance expressed grief and anger over the death and described it as a broken immigration system.
Back in Puebla, farmer Juan Sanchez Guerrero, 45, fell ill when he heard about his death in Texas.
He escaped death when he and his friends fled from migrant wrestlers in the mountains near Otte Mesa, near San Diego.
“As for the kidnappers, we immigrants are not human,” said Sanchez Guerrero. “For them we have nothing but merchandise.”
Associated Press writers John Lozano in San Antonio; Elliott Spaghetti in San Diego; Edgar H. Clemente Villa Comaltitlon, Mexico; Sonia D. in Guatemala City. Perez and Marlon Gonzalez of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, contributed to the report.
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