The deaths of 53 migrants in San Antonio, Texas, this week is renewing concerns about border policies and immigration reform.
The migrants died in sweltering heat after being left in a tractor-trailer without air conditioning or water. This case of human smuggling is being called the deadliest in U.S. history.
“This is an absolutely horrific situation and our heart goes out to the families of these migrants and the survivors as well, but you know, the second issue that’s pressing for me is this was unfortunately predictable,” said Azadeh Erfani, senior policy analyst at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “It’s a byproduct of really harsh deterrence policies that this administration and previous administrations have been pursuing, so I really hope that this administration learns the lesson and actually pays attention to the systemic issues raised here.”
The mayor of San Antonio said the area where the migrants were found is known to have seen a lot of smuggling cases over the years. There was also another smuggling incident in Texas on Thursday that left four migrants dead after a highway chase and crash. Immigration reform advocates say migrants turn to smugglers because they have no other choice.
“All safe ports of entry are all actual ways to enter without taking these dangerous routes or having to turn to smugglers or smuggling networks, but they’re closed, there’s no way for people to come, so as a result, basically, these policies are fueling the use of smuggling while denouncing them in the same breath,” said Erfani.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio also said this incident speaks to a larger issue at the border, and what he calls Congress’ inability to reform our immigration system.
“We absolutely need to create far more channels for people to be able to migrate in a way that is safe. We need to respect our own laws when it comes to humanitarian protection. Definitely get rid of programs such as Title 42, which has been used essentially to stop people from exercising their right to seek protection in the U.S.,” said Oscar Chacón, director of Alianza Americas. “We need to also consider ways in which we can completely get away from the notion that immigrants and immigration, that’s something bad for the country and recognize the facts and the fact that they have been incredibly positive for the United States of America.”