Tragedy in San Antonio: “The traffickers know that the probability that the trucks will be inspected is very low”
BBC News World
On the US-Mexico border, each migrant has a price for smugglers.
Those with fewer resources are the ones forced to take a riskier journey, such as boarding cargo trucks to travel hundreds of miles in inhuman conditions.
Tragically, on some occasions that type of trip – of several hours, no space, ventilation o agua– leads them to death, as happened this Monday near San Antonio, Texas, where more than 50 migrants died in the box of a trailer.
“There is a whole chain in the dynamics and economics of migrant smuggling. People who travel this way [en camiones] it is the one that is paying the least amount demanded by the traffickers,” Gabriella Sánchez, a researcher of the phenomenon of people smuggling on the border and an academic at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, explains to BBC Mundo.
At the other extreme, there are migrants who pay large sums to obtain safer transit into the US, such as the use of someone else’s legal border crossing identification.
But in recent months, the desperation of many on the border,stranded in Mexico penniless by las restrictive policies promoted by the US government in the wake of the pandemic, has led them a take risks like never before.
“It is a direct consequence of policies that make the journey longer, more difficult or more expensive. And the desperation of the people who are in border shelters right now is so great that are willing to To diebecause for them death in any way los is chasing“, Tells BBC Mundo Dulce García, director of the organization for the defense of migrants Angeles de la Frontera.
The truck track and more
Sánchez says he would “spend all day” explaining the multiple methods that migrants and traffickers use to cross the border.
But the method of trucks packed with men, women, and even children is one that “coyotes” or “polleros”due to the probability of not being detected.
And the fact is that the border between Mexico and the United States is a zone of very high freight traffic. By the different official crossings and by the highways of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, Freight vehicles circulate massively.
“Every day there are thousands. The CBP [autoridad migratoria de EE.UU.] it is not equipped, nor is it its job to inspect all the vehicles,” explains Sánchez.
“That’s why traffickers depend a lot on these types of vehicles, because they know that the probability that they will be inspected is very low“, Add.
And by taking more people on a single trip, smugglers make a bigger profit.
“There is a very clear correlation between people who travel more safely and the money they have to cover the cost,” says Sánchez.
Among other ways to pass without your own documents is the use of a crossing card valid borderafrom a person who obtained it legally, to cross the border: the only risk is being discovered by the authorities.
others pay to be carried concealed in small vehicleswithout as much danger as in trucks, or to be guided by land or by sea.
“Smugglers don’t charge everyone the same. It doesn’t matter if you come with someone from the same town, it varies due to many factors: if you’re a man, if you’re a woman, your age…,” says Sánchez.
For the “coyotes”, profits are paramount and not the guarantee of bringing migrants safe and sound.
Immigrant rights activist Jenn Budd, a former Border Patrol unit chief, tells the BBC that smugglers often stuff as many immigrants as possible.
In one case he recalls, he intercepted an old Ford truck driving on a mountainous road near the border. In the box of the vehicle there were about 30 people, lying down and stacked one on top of the other.
“They were lying there like sardines,” he says. “It’s dangerous. Those trucks can tip over. People in the bottom of the vehicles often suffocate. It’s very common.”
the last stretch
Traveling in large or small vehicles is not always the way to cross the border, but to move away from it towards large cities, where it is more likely for a migrant to disperse safely.
being Texas the closest US state from central and southern Mexico – where most Mexican migrants come from, as well as Central Americans – It is the most popular route. From the intersections of the cities of Laredo and McAllen they usually proceed towards San Antonio.
Hence, in that region there have been tragedies like the one on Monday or the one in 2017, when 8 of a group of 39 migrants died of suffocation in a truck.
In the case of the San Antonio incident, Sánchez says, “most likely, people were already on the US side when they got into a truck like that.”
“At crossings like the one in Laredo, for example, almost all the trucks go through a detector. So I speculate – it will have to be confirmed later – that many of the people were already on the US side and there they are assigned to that vehicle.”
In many cases, Jenn Budd points out, migrants they are already weakened after crossing the border on foot through rough terrain.
“Smugglers will tell you it’s a 15- or 30-minute walk. But the reality is it could be days,” he explains. “And they are already dehydrated.”
“A cross right now could be around $5,000. But, and this it is very important to know, the costs vary a lot and that amount has often not been paidSanchez says.
People commonly make an agreement with the “coyotes” to pay them once they arrive at their destination.
“It will be a few days until the next tragedy”
Despite the dangers, the number of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border is at an all-time high.
In May of this year, 239,416 migrant arrests were recorded in one of the largest waves in recent years.
Dulce García explains that there are people in shelters on the Mexican border who carry almost two years waiting for a refugee application en EE.UU.
“I cannot speak for the entire border, but at 17 points that we support, migrants are so desperate that they have attempted suicide. We have spoken with mothers who, out of desperation, have sent their children alone so that at least they have a chance to survive,” Garcia says.
Paying a dealer used to cost a few hundred dollars, but now reaches an average of between US$8,000 and US$10,000, explains the director of Angeles de la Frontera from San Diego. And risking the cheapest trip is the most affordable option for them.
For his part, Sánchez knows that there is a pattern that follows incidents like the one in San Antonio.
“In the next few days, things may calm down a bit, because there are going to be many inspections, raids, more people watching at night. But it will be a few days until the next tragedy comes“.
For the specialist, the “only solution” is for governments to offer “legal travel mechanismsregardless of nationality, race or social status”.
“Only then there will be no demand from traffickers. It sounds very simple, I know, but if there is no such freedom of access, there will be another ‘San Antonio’ in a few weeks.”
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