Officials: 51 migrants abandoned in tractor-trailer have died

Officials: 51 migrants abandoned in tractor-trailer have died
Bexar County officials on Tuesday said 51 migrants have died after being abandoned in a tractor-trailer on the side of a San Antonio road a day prior. Photo courtesy of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff/Twitter

June 29 (UPI) — Fifty-one migrants who were found in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer that was abandoned by the side of a San Antonio road have died, officials said, increasing the death toll from 46 a day prior.

Officials with Bexar County where San Antonio is located announced the death toll during a press conference Tuesday afternoon, stating 51 bodies were now in the custody of the medical examiner’s office, including that of 39 men and 12 woman.

“The inscription on our Statue of Liberty says, ‘Give me your tired, your poor and your huddled masses yearning to breath free.'” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “Today, we mourn for those 51 immigrants who came to us to breath that fresh air, but instead found death in the state of Texas.”

Tom Peine, assistant public information officer for Bexar County, said teenagers could be among the deceased but that will be determined by the medical examiner as well as each victim’s cause of death.

“This work will take days, if not longer,” he said.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign minister, said 22 of the victims were Mexican, seven were Guatemalans and two were Hondurans with others yet to be identified.

“We are in mourning. Huge tragedy,” he tweeted. “Mexico joins investigations in the U.S., coordinated with the [Department of Homeland Security].”

Authorities said the tractor-trailer was found Monday evening with the bodies of 46 people inside without water or air conditioning. Sixteen people, including children, were found alive and transported to local hospitals suffering from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

At least three people have been detained in connection with the deaths with federal prosecutors charging two of them, Juan Claudio D’luna-Mendez and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao.

According to court documents filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas, the two Mexican citizens were charged separately with “possession of a weapon by an alien illegally in the United States.”

U.S. President Joe Biden mourned the loss of life in a statement Tuesday, stating preliminary information indicates that “this tragedy was caused by smugglers or human traffickers who have no regard for the lives they endanger and exploit to make a profit.”

“Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy, and my administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry,” he said.

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