Smuggling immigrants is a business and business is good. However, profitability is coming at the expense of the well-being, if not the lives of smuggler’s “human cargo.”
More than three weeks after 10 undocumented immigrants died while trapped in a sweltering, poorly ventilated rig parked at a San Antonio Walmart, 17 more were found in a hot truck parked close to the border.
The gas station is a popular destination for commercial truck drivers traveling through the region. Acting on an anonymous tip from someone claiming to be a relative, Edinburgh police found the group of undocumented immigrants locked in an 18-wheeler located 20 miles from the Mexican border. After knocking on the side of the parked trailers, the occupants eventually knocked back.
Assistant Police Chief Oscar Trevino claimed that the immigrants from Mexico, Honduras and other countries were likely locked inside of the tractor-trailer for eight hours.
No one required medical attention. Two Cuban nationals in charge of the rig were detained.
Both incidents underscore the continuing problem of human smuggling. The big rigs gained popularity in the early 1990s during a time when U.S. border enforcement surged in San Diego and El Paso. At the time, those areas served as the busiest corridors for illegal crossings.
The trucks are only one component of larger operations that started with “mom-and-pop” operations who accepted small fees to help with border crossings. After entering the U.S. became more challenging in 2001, the “business model” shifted to an elaborate network of foot guides, safe house operators and truck drivers. Small fees turned into thousands of dollars per immigrant.
Ironically, the more sophisticated operations have only heightened the risk of immigrants suffering nightmarish injuries or death as they pursue their own American dream.