In a shocking tragedy Monday evening on a desolate country road outside San Antonio, an abandoned truck was discovered with dozens of people locked inside, many of whom failed to survive due to heat illness, dehydration, or exhaustion.  By Tuesday, 51 people had died in what one Homeland Security Investigations’ agent called the deadliest human smuggling incident in US history. Some victims could be younger than 18.  “This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

The road runs parallel to Interstate 35, a major north-south route in the central United States for traffic and commerce from the southern border. The interstate stretches from Laredo, Texas, to Duluth, Minnesota, near the Canadian border. From San Antonio, it meanders north to Austin, Waco, Forth Worth and Dallas. It’s a route often exploited by smugglers at a time when record numbers of migrants are being intercepted at the US-Mexico border.  This terrible incident sheds new light on how dangerous human smuggling is.  Among the deceased were migrants from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. These dangerous and sometimes fatal human smuggling operations, transporting people in crammed trailers and vans with no air conditioning, are common along the southern border.

In 2017, 10 migrants died and dozens were injured from heat-related conditions in a tractor-trailer discovered at a San Antonio Walmart about three miles northeast of the latest incident. The driver of the truck was sentenced to life without parole in a federal prison.  Roughly 650 people have died in the past year attempting to cross the US-Mexico Border.