San Antonio trailer deaths live updates: Driver Homero Zamorano and three others charged as toll hits 53

At least 46 bodies found in trailer, San Antonio officials say

Four people, including alleged truck driver Homero Zamarano Jr, have been charged in connection to the San Antonio migrant deaths, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

The 45-year-old is charged with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death. He is from Brownsville but based in Pasadena, Texas, according to officials. He could face up to life in prison or the death penalty.

Three others were charged as well, including Christian Martinez, who allegedly discussed the smuggling plan in a call with Mr Zamarano, and Mexican nationals Juan Claudio and Juan Francisco D’Luna Mendez, who were found because their address was used to register the tractor- trailer that smuggled the migrants.

At least 53 people were discovered dead, “stacked” inside the truck’s tractor-trailer near San Antonio, Texas, in what authorities believe may be the deadliest human-trafficking incident in modern US history.

President Joe Biden called the “tragic loss of life” in Texas “horrifying and heartbreaking” while San Antonio’s mayor Ron Nirenberg called it a “horrific human tragedy”.

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San Antonio sheriff rips into Abbott for turning migrant trailer tragedy into ‘one big campaign stunt’

On Tuesday, Sheriff Javier Salazar wrote to US President Joe Biden and complained that Mr Abbott had used the trailer tragedy – in which at least 53 migrants lost their lives – to gain political points.

The Texas governor had blamed the San Antonio tragedy on Mr Biden and his immigration policies.

My colleague Maroosha Muzaffar has more:

Stuti Mishra30 June 2022 10:00 am

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Supreme Court ruling on controversial ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy imminent

The San Antonio migrant tragedy has brought attention to the Biden administration’s border policies. And a Supreme Court ruling is expected in the coming days on one of the most controversial aspects of the border regime.

The court will weigh in on the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy. The rule, launched under Donald Trump in 2019, forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims were processed, stranding thousands in squalid camps in border cities for months or even years.

The Biden administration sought to halt the program its first day in office, but a judge forced the White House to reinstate the policy in December, amid a lawsuit from Texas and Missouri.

Stuti Mishra30 June 2022 09:00

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Two more people charged in San Antonio smuggling operation

The suspected driver of a truck packed with dozens of migrants who died in sweltering heat during a smuggling attempt in Texas and an accused conspirator were charged in US federal court on Wednesday with human trafficking offences.

Homero Zamorano Jr, 45, was arrested on Wednesday on criminal charges related to alleged involvement in human smuggling resulting in death, according to a Department of Justice news release.

The arrest cam after SAPD officers were tipped off about his location. They found him hiding in a bush after he attempted to abscond. He has been charged with a criminal complaint with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death.

Christian Martinez, 28, who was arrested on Tuesday in Palestine, Texas, was charged with one count of conspiracy to transport undocumented migrants resulting in death, the DOJ said.

Earlier, Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao had been charged with “possession of a weapon by an alien illegally in the United States”, according to two separate criminal complaints filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, CNN reported.

If convicted, each man faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, or possibly the death penalty, the DOJ said while announcing the charges stemming from the deadliest migrant-trafficking incident on record in the United States.

Mourners pay their respects at a makeshift memorial

(AP)

Stuti Mishra30 June 2022 07:59

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San Antonio migrant deaths lead to slow effort to ID victims

Victims have been found with no identification documents at all and in one case a stolen ID. Remote villages lack phone service to reach family members and determine the whereabouts of missing migrants. Fingerprint data has to be shared and matched by different governments.

Two days after the discovery of 51 dead migrants in a stifling trailer in San Antonio, few identities of the victims have been made public, illustrating the challenges authorities face in tracing people who cross borders clandestinely.

San Antonio migrant deaths lead to slow effort to ID victims

Bodies without identification documents, remote villages without phone service, the need to share fingerprint data across borders and even stolen IDs are complicating efforts to identify the 51 dead migrants found in San Antonio as families from Mexico to Honduras worry their loved ones could be among them

Stuti Mishra30 June 2022 07:15

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Migrants in Texas trailer tragedy died seeking better lives

Children set out hoping to earn enough to support their siblings and parents. Young adults who sacrificed to attend college thinking it would lead to success left their country disillusioned. A man already working in the US who returned to visit his wife and children decided to take a cousin on his return to the US.

The 67 people packed into a tractor-trailer and abandoned on Monday in Texas began to confirm their worst fears and talk of their relatives, a common narrative of families pursuing a better life took shape from Honduras to Mexico.

Stuti Mishra30 June 2022 06:48

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ICYMI: Two men charged with illegal weapons possession

Two men arrested in connection with the Texas truck where dozens of people were found dead amid sweltering conditions inside the tractor-trailer this week have been charged by federal prosecutors with possession of illegal weapons, according to court documents.

Police initially said on Tuesday that three people had been arrested in connection with the gruesome scene.

Late Tuesday night, it was revealed that Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao had been charged with “possession of a weapon by an alien illegally in the United States”, according to two separate criminal complaints filed in US District Court for the Western District of Texas, CNN reported.

Read the full report from The Independent below:

Stuti Mishra30 June 2022 05:45

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Explainer: Heat, humidity a perilous mix in immigrant deaths

The combination of heat and humidity would have quickly created life-threatening conditions inside the packed, un-airconditioned tractor-trailer where dozens of immigrants were found dead, an expert said.

Although it’s unclear how long the people had been inside the trailer, it likely would only take an hour or less for temperatures to climb as high as 125F (51C) or hotter, said Jennifer Vanos, an assistant professor in climate and health at Arizona State University who has studied child deaths in cars.

The death toll rose to 53 on Wednesday, two days after the tractor-trailer — packed with 67 people — was found abandoned on the edge of San Antonio, marking the nation’s deadliest smuggling episode on the US-Mexico border.

Here’s what made the situation so dangerously wrong:

Stuti Mishra30 June 2022 05:24

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Kamala Harris criticizes Texas governor for going ‘straight to politics’ after 53 migrants die in San Antonio

During an interview with NPR on Wednesday, the Democrat fielded questions from co-host Asma Khalid about the overturning of Roe v Wade before the pair turned to discussing matters south of the border.

“I’m sure you saw that, last night, there were at least 50 migrants who died in a tractor trailer in San Antonio, Texas,” Ms Khalid began. “I wanted to get a sense from you of – are there any new plans that you have for tackling the issue through administrative powers – through executive actions – that you all think you can’t do?”

Late Monday night, within hours of the news arriving that dozens of people were found trapped inside a sweltering trailer without signs of water or air conditioning to combat against the triple-digit-degree temperatures inside, the governor of Texas tweeted that the blame for the incident lay at the Biden administration’s feet.

Johanna Chisholm has the details.

Josh Marcus30 June 2022 04:00

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What we know about the victims of the San Antonio smuggling tragedy

The two cousins ​​returned to the tiny, hardscrabble hamlet they grew up in southern Mexico about two weeks ago to say goodbye in what has become a right of passage for generations of migrants from their remote, impoverished mountainous region in Oaxaca state.

It would not be the first trip to the US-Mexico border for Javier Flores López, now in his mid-30s, who had left Cerro Verde years ago and went to Ohio, where his father and a brother live and he worked in construction.

He was back home to see his wife and three small children briefly, said a cousin, Francisco López Hernández. This time he was returning to the United States with another cousin, José Luis Vásquez Guzmán, 32, who was going for the first time and hoped to join his oldest brother who was in Ohio as well.

While everyone knew the risks, countless people from Cerro Verde had made it safely across the US-Mexico border with the help of smugglers, so it came as a shock, López Hernández said, to learn his cousins ​​and dozens of other migrants were abandoned inside a tractor-trailer sweltering under the Texas sun.

Josh Marcus30 June 2022 03:30

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EXPLAINER: Heat, humidity a perilous mix in immigrant deaths

The combination of heat and humidity would have quickly created life-threatening conditions inside the packed, un-airconditioned tractor-trailer where dozens of immigrants were found dead, an expert said.

Although it’s unclear how long the people had been inside the trailer, it likely would only take an hour or less for temperatures to climb as high as 125 degrees (51 Celsius) or hotter, said Jennifer Vanos, an assistant professor in climate and health at Arizona State University who has studied child deaths in cars.

The death toll rose to 53 on Wednesday, two days after the tractor-trailer — packed with 67 people — was found abandoned on the edge of San Antonio, marking the nation’s deadliest smuggling episode on the US-Mexico border.

Josh Marcus30 June 2022 03:00

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