EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Mexican government will pay for the repatriation and funeral of most of the migrants dead in a smuggling attempt near San Antonio this week.
It will also open an investigation and cooperate with U.S. authorities to identify the transnational criminal organization behind the deaths of 53 people who suffocated or succumbed from injuries sustained while riding tightly packed for hours in the back of a semi-truck trailer in 90-degree-plus Texas heat.
“The Federal Attorney General and the National Migration Institute will assist the criminal investigation by federal authorities in the United States to identify the network of human traffickers responsible for this tragedy,” INM Commissioner Francisco Garduño said on Wednesday.
Garduño said U.S. officials have told Mexico that 67 people were in the back of the trailer. The trailer apparently passed unhindered through two U.S. Border Patrol highway checkpoints without agents detecting the hidden human cargo.
Mexican officials in an online news conference Wednesday released a photo of the alleged driver of the semi. The man wearing a black baseball hat and a striped T-shirt appears to be talking to someone at the Encinal, Texas, checkpoint as he is being recorded by a camera.
They also released a map purporting to track the semi from Laredo to Encinal, the backup CBP station at Cotulla, and, eventually its final parking location just southeast of San Antonio. The truck apparently began its journey in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, but it’s unclear where it picked up the migrants.
Border Report has documented court cases that paint a picture of migrants crossing or going around the border wall, being picked up by American contractors that take them to safe houses, and then smuggling organizations paying truck drivers to transport large groups of migrants from stash houses to the interior of the U.S. for fees starting at $1,000 a head.
Garduño said the red 1995 Volvo truck with false license plates on Monday was left parked near railroad tracks in the vicinity of Interstate 35 occasionally used by migrants to get on trains.
He said officials from the Mexican consulate in San Antonio have been deployed to the various hospitals where some survivors are being treated. He said his government will pay for funeral costs of the 27 Mexican citizens who have died so far and will transport their bodies as well as the bodies of seven Guatemalan nationals as a humanitarian gesture to the government of that Central American nation.
He said other victims include 14 Hondurans, two Salvadorans and others whose identities remain unknown.
Mexican authorities so far have not turned up criminal records on the three suspects arrested in connection with the case in Texas. Garduño identified two of the suspects as Mexican citizens Francisco N. and Juan Claudio N. The suspects tried to pass themselves off as surviving migrants, he said.
“(On Tuesday), President Biden committed to continue fighting smuggling organizations. Vice President Harris expressed her condolences to the countries affected. (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was saddened by the tragedy and will fight human smuggling organizations ,” Garduno said.