US opens criminal probe after 51 migrants found dead in truck trailer in Texas

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The United States has opened a federal criminal investigation after 51 migrants died in the back of a truck in Texas, the Department of Homeland Security announced.

A Bexar County official reported that “39 men and 12 women” died in the scorching heat of the abandoned trailer after it was discovered on a road in his district. It is the deadliest incident involving migrants along the southern border in living memory.

President Joe Biden blamed “criminal” professional drug dealers for the tragedy.

“This incident underscores the need to tackle the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry that preys on migrants and claims far too many innocent lives,” he said in a statement Monday.

Federal law enforcement officers arrested two men Tuesday at an address linked to the trailer registration, court documents show.

Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao and Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, both Mexican nationals whose U.S. tourist visas had expired, were illegally in possession of firearms, the documents show.

A third person, suspected of being the driver of the truck and trailer, was arrested nearby when she was “very high on meth”, the local daily reported. San Antonio Express-Newsquoting a law enforcement officer.

Twenty-seven of those who died are believed to be of Mexican descent, said Rubén Minutti, Mexico’s consul general in San Antonio.

He said some of the survivors were in critical condition with brain damage, internal bleeding and other injuries.

Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador called it a “great misfortune”.

The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it had confirmed that two of those hospitalized were Guatemalan.

Many dead were found without identity papers, which complicates the identification process. One had a stolen ID.

Dozens of people held a vigil for the victims on Tuesday evening, expressing their anger at the dangerous journey many migrants make each year in search of a life in the United States.

“If we had a better way for people to come in safely – and I have to change that – if we had a better way for brown and black people to come in safely, they wouldn’t come through these desperate measures,” Debbie Ponce said. , who attended the vigil.

Organizer Carolina Canizales said that for many at the vigil, the tragedy was deeply personal.

“Migrants matter. And their lives matter,” she said.

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott blamed the incident on Mr Biden.

“These deaths are on Biden. They are the result of his deadly open border policy,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Biden said an anti-smuggling campaign he launched had so far arrested 2,400 people in recent months.

“Exploiting vulnerable people for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: June 30, 2022, 04:35

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