SAN ANTONIO — At least 40 migrants were found dead in the back of a tractor-trailer in San Antonio on Monday, according to two federal law enforcement officials briefed on the horrific finding.

Rescuers pulled at least 15 others from the vehicle and they were taken for medical treatment, said one of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide preliminary information.

The truck was found by agents from Homeland Security Investigations, a branch of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that specializes in human trafficking cases, one of the officials said. HSI agents are leading the investigation.

“There are about 46 migrants dead in San Antonio. Lord have mercy on them,” wrote San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller on Twitter. “They hoped for a better life. Lord after Uvalde and now this, help us!”

Near the scene, the lights of dozens of emergency vehicles flickered into the evening as investigators continued to search along a road running parallel to railroad tracks. Bystanders raised their cellphones toward the scene about 600 feet down the pockmarked road where a parked tractor trailer leaned into the brush.

The location is close to Interstate 35, a major transit route for traffic and commerce from the U.S-Mexico border. Police said the trailer was discovered around 6 p.m.


Smuggling organizations working inside the United States sometimes pack migrants into trucks and cargo trailers after they have already crossed the Mexico border, in order to sneak them past highway checkpoints operated by the U.S. Border Patrol.

The deaths come amid a surge in migration to the U.S. southern border, with the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures showing that immigration arrests there in May rose to the highest levels ever recorded. CBP made 239,416 arrests along the Mexico border last month, a 2 percent increase from April, according to the totals.

The agency is on pace to surpass 2 million detentions in the 2022 fiscal year, which ends in September, after reaching a record 1.73 million in 2021 — presenting an ongoing logistical and political challenge for the Biden administration.

Migrant Deaths

The scene where a tractor trailer with multiple dead bodies was discovered Monday in San Antonio. Eric Gay/Associated Press

The latest figures show growing numbers arriving from countries including Turkey, India, Russia and other nations outside the Western Hemisphere. High numbers of migrants from Mexico, Central America, Cuba and Haiti also continued to cross. CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus recently warned about the dangers of illegal crossings.

“As temperatures start to rise in the summer, human smugglers will continue to exploit vulnerable populations and recklessly endanger the lives of migrants for financial gain,” Magnus said. “The terrain along the Southwest Border is extreme, the summer heat is severe, and the miles of desert that migrants must hike after crossing the border are unforgiving.”

The tragedy immediately became one of the worst smuggling incidents on U.S. soil. Until now, the deadliest incident was on May 13, 2003, when 19 migrants died in the rear compartment of an 18-wheeler in South Texas.


Truck driver Tyrone Williams had agreed to smuggle the migrants across a border checkpoint for $7,500, but failed to turn on the truck’s cooling system and temperatures inside soared to a brutal 173 degrees.

Migrants clawed at the insulation and screamed for help, and when he finally opened the doors in Victoria, Tex., the 19 were found dead of dehydration, overheating and suffocation. Williams later was sentenced to 34 years in prison.

On July 23, 2017, 10 migrants died after being smuggled in a tractor trailer to the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in San Antonio. The driver, James Matthew Bradley, Jr. pleaded guilty to charges related to their deaths. Eight migrants died in the trailer and two later died at the hospital.

Thirty-nine migrants were found at the scene, but officials said as many as 200 may have been on the trip. Bradley was sentenced to life in federal prison without parole.

His co-defendant, Pedro Silva Segura, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death, and was sentenced to 108 months in federal prison and five years of supervised release.

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