Immigrants in the back of a sweltering tractor trailer in San Antonio this weekend served as a grisly illustration of the sacrifices some are willing to make to get to the United States.
By the time authorities found the stifling semi truck in a Wal-mart parking lot, eight people had died. Two more died at the hospital. The remaining people are severely injured, some suffering from “irreversible brain damage,” the city’s fire chief reports.
Human smuggling and trafficking operations are disturbingly frequent in Texas.
According to the advocacy group San Antonio Against Slavery, “25 percent of all human trafficking victims nationwide have, at one point, been located in Texas, either as a pass-through point or a place where they are long-term captives.”
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Whether the truck’s occupants were victims of human trafficking, which subjects persons to involuntary slavery of some kind, or human smuggling, the exploitation and importation of people through the deliberate evasion of immigration laws, is unclear.
Both crimes rob the victims “of their most basic rights,” and require authorities to “bring down the full weight of the law for the perpetrators,” said Gov. Greg Abbott.
But the question of what state and federal policies might help prevent future calamities is complex.
Some suggest a robust guest worker program and more pathways to citizenship will mitigate the desperation that leads to exploitation.
Others argue that better enforcement will serve as a deterrent to would-be migrants and those who would exploit them.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was quick to assert on Facebook that “sanctuary cities entice people to believe they can come to America and Texas and live outside the law.” Sunday’s “tragedy is why I made passing Senate Bill 4 to ban sanctuary cities — which is now law — a top priority,” he wrote.
We believe aligning this tragedy with SB4 is inappropriate.
Patrick is right about one thing. We need both a secure border and legal immigration reform.