Ten migrants found dead in Texas parking lot
Authorities in Texas discovered eight people dead in a tractor-trailer outside a Walmart. Two more died in hospital. Is it right to blame Donald Trump’s immigration policy?
Nearly 300 people successfully cross the border from Mexico to the USA illegally every day. That is roughly one person every five minutes.
Many fall at this hurdle: in 2016 there were 408,870 apprehensions on the southwest border. Of those who do make it through, some fulfil the American dream, and eventually become full US citizens. Some lie low. Some are deported. But for the most unlucky, the journey can be deadly.
This was the fate of eight men who were discovered dead in a tractor-trailer outside a Walmart in San Antonio, Texas. Two more died after being taken to hospital.
Authorities dubbed the incident a “human trafficking crime”. The men are believed to have died from heat exposure and asphyxiation. Thirty others were discovered in the trailer, 20 of whom are in a critical condition.
The truck driver has been charged with illegally transporting immigrants.
It is a sobering reminder of the perils of entering the USA by any means possible.
Hiding people in trucks is a common form of human trafficking around the world. During the 2015 migrant crisis in Europe, 71 people were found dead in the back of a lorry in Austria, while 19 died in a similar way in south Texas in 2003. The trucks have been called “mobile ovens”.
These dangerous journeys are nothing new, but some are drawing a link between the deaths and Trump’s rhetoric on immigration from Latin America.
One expert, Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, commented: “Events like this are an unintended consequence of enhanced border enforcement and security measures.” They put migrants at greater risk and strengthen smuggling networks.
Arrests of undocumented migrants are up under Trump, although deportations are down.
Many migrants from Central America are escaping some of the most dangerous places on Earth, excluding war zones. Honduras and El Salvador have the highest murder rates in the world, while Mexico has long struggled against violent drug cartels. A movement now exists to recognise these migrants as refugees.
Would a more open immigration policy help prevent these incidents?
A moral question
“The only justifiable response to these tragedies is mercy towards those who want to come,” say advocates of open borders. Clamping down on immigration will not stop people from trying to find a better life. Humans have an obligation to be compassionate. Borders and walls prevent this.
“What utopian nonsense,” reply others. Tougher laws will discourage people from making the journey in the first place. Borders are the foundation of security, allowing people to live in peace according to their own states’ laws. If people want to break the law by entering a country illegally, they do so at their own risk.
- What is the correct response to the deaths of these ten migrants: strengthening borders or opening them up? Should the authorities crack down on traffickers?
- Should people from dangerous countries which are not war zones be considered refugees?
- Write a letter to President Trump explaining what you think he should do about migration into the United States.
- Research the story of an illegal immigrant to the United States. How did he or she enter the country, and what happened when they arrived there?
Some People Say...
“No human being is illegal.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Eight people were discovered dead in a parking lot in San Antonio, Texas. Two died later in hospital. Authorities are fairly certain that they were migrants who had illegally crossed the border into the USA. We know that the journey from Mexico and Central America to the USA is extremely dangerous, but that hundreds of thousands still make it every year.
- What do we not know?
- At the time of writing, we do not know the identities of the men who died, where they came from or how they crossed the border. It is also unclear what effect Donald Trump’s immigration policies are having, or will have, on the numbers attempting to cross from Mexico. It could stem the tide by reducing demand, or it could force people to put themselves in even more danger in order to reach the USA.
- Nearly 300 people
- Extrapolated from US border patrol figures; it is estimated that annually around 500,000 people attempt to cross the border illegally. About 80% are caught.
- San Antonio
- The second most populous city in Texas, 120 miles from the border with Mexico. From 2000 until 2010 it experienced the fastest growth of any city in America, mainly fuelled by migration of Hispanics, who now form a small majority in the city.
- Heat exposure
- The average July temperature in San Antonio is 35ºC.
- Rhetoric on immigration from Latin America
- Work has yet to start on Trump’s border wall with Mexico — perhaps his most famous campaign promise. He also characterised many Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals”.
- Honduras has an annual murder rate of 95.44 per 100,000 people. By way of comparison, the figure for the USA is 16.8, while in the UK it is 7.4.
- The United Nations convention on refugees states: “A refugee should not be returned to a country where he or she faces serious threats to his or her life or freedom.” This is now an established rule of international law.