COVER: The truck with human trafficking victims — nine of whom died from heat exposure — was discovered at a Walmart in southwest San Antonio. SCREENSHOT VIA YOUTUBE
by JULIÁN AGUILAR
The death toll from the weekend’s immigrant-smuggling tragedy in San Antonio has risen to 10, and the driver in the alleged crime is scheduled to appear in a federal courtroom Monday morning.
James Mathew Bradley, Jr., 60, is being held for his alleged role in the incident, in which San Antonio police found dozens of people in the back of a sweltering trailer early Sunday morning.
Police initially said that 38 people were in the truck, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said the actual count is 39; officers found one additional person hiding in a wooded area near the scene. Eight people were found dead and two more died later at local hospitals. All of the deceased were adult males.
A criminal complaint is likely to be filed sometime before Bradley’s appearance, an ICE official said. But it’s unclear what charges Bradley could face.
Though Sunday’s news made worldwide headlines, ICE officials said in their statement that Sunday’s human smuggling attempt was one of thousands made since 2016. During that fiscal year, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit investigated 2,110 such attempts that resulted in 1,522 criminal convictions. That same year, the unit made 2,734 criminal arrests and 3,007 administrative arrests related to human smuggling.
In May, Border Patrol agents found 14 undocumented immigrants hiding in a grain hauler at the agency’s checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas. And in the news release, acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said Sunday’s incident reminded him of another Texas tragedy he saw with his own eyes.
“I personally worked on a tragic tractor trailer case in Victoria, Texas, in 2003, in which 19 people were killed as a result of the smugglers’ total indifference to the safety of those smuggled and to the law,” he said.
It’s unclear where the immigrants in Sunday’s attempt were from or where their ultimate destination was. The ICE official said they are being treated at local hospitals and “officials will not release the identities or alienage of victims until relatives can be notified.”
JULIÁN AGUILAR reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.