Madrid (CNN) — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the finding of at least 51 dead migrants in a truck in Texas is “horrible and heartbreaking” and underscores the need to go after criminal networks of human trafficking.
“Exploiting vulnerable people for profit is shameful, as is the political bombast surrounding the tragedy, and my administration will continue to do everything we can to stop human smugglers and traffickers from preying on people seeking to enter the United States.” United across ports of entry,” Biden said in a statement.
At least 51 migrants are believed to have lost their lives after they and others were found in stifling conditions in a semitrailer in San Antonio, a federal law enforcement official said Tuesday, in a scene the mayor called a “horrible human tragedy.” “.
In his statement, Biden pointed to the work already done by his administration to combat human trafficking.
“This incident underscores the need to go after the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry that preys on migrants and results in far too many innocent deaths,” he said. “In Los Angeles two weeks ago, I announced that the United States has established a first-of-its-kind anti-smuggling campaign with our regional partners. In the first three months, we’ve made more than 2,400 arrests, and that work hasn’t will only intensify in the coming months.
The death toll includes migrants from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, according to a federal law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. His discovery on Monday comes as US federal authorities have launched an “unprecedented” operation to disrupt human smuggling networks amid an influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border.
“San Antonio police have alerted the US Department of Homeland Security investigative unit, which is leading the investigation, of a suspected case of human smuggling, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said Monday. The incident appears to be one of the deadliest in recent years for migrants near the southern border.
Three people being held far from the towing location are in police custody, although their connection to the situation is unclear, Police Chief Bill McManus said at a news conference Monday night.
Authorities were alerted to the scene shortly before 6 p.m., when a worker in a nearby building heard a cry for help, McManus said. The worker found a trailer with its doors partially open and saw deceased people inside, McManus said.
Forty-eight people died at the scene, and two died in hospitals, the federal official told CNN on Tuesday, noting that the number of victims is preliminary.
Sixteen people — 12 adults and four children — were taken alive and conscious to medical facilities, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said at Monday night’s news conference.
— CNN’s Amy Simonson, Amanda Musa, Travis Caldwell and Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.