'nothing short of a horrific human tragedy'
Police and fire officials in San Antonio, Texas, found 46 people dead in the back of a tractor-trailer Monday evening along with 12 adults and four children still alive but too weak to pull themselves out of the truck. Officials believe the dead and hospitalized survivors are migrants, The Texas Tribune reports. Federal investigators with the Department of Homeland Security took control of the case Monday night, calling it an "alleged human smuggling event." Three people were taken into custody, but their relationship to the incident was not disclosed.
Police got a call about cries of help from the back of the 18-wheeler shortly before 6 p.m. on Monday. San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said emergency responders found "stacks of bodies" in the truck, which had no visible water or air conditioning, and the survivors were all suffering from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The temperature rose to 101 degrees in San Antonio on Monday. "This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy," San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a news conference.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who has deployed state troopers and National Guard in a sprawling operation to tackle human trafficking and other border issues, tweeted that "these deaths are on Biden" and "his deadly open border policies." ("People cramming themselves into a container to be smuggled across the border happens when a border is not open," The Atlantic's Adam Serwer noted. "If it's open you don't need to do that.")
San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller wrote that "once again, the lack of courage to deal with immigration reform is killing and destroying lives. We do not learn. God teach us to change."
This isn't the first such incident in Texas. San Antonio police found 39 undocumented migrants inside a hot tractor-trailer in 2017, and 10 of them died, landing the driver with life in prison, the Tribune reports. Another 19 undocumented migrants were found dead of suffocation in an airless trailer in Victoria, Texas, in 2003.
This is already the hottest June on record in San Antonio, with 16 days where the temperature rose to 100 degrees or higher, the National Weather Service reports. The previous record, according to data stretching back to 1885, was nine days of 100-plus heat.