By KELIN DILLON
Two days after the bodies of 51 undocumented Latin American immigrants were found suffocated to death in a tractor-trailer truck outside of San Antonio, Texas, on Monday, June 27 – a discovery U.S. authorities characterized as the worst and most deadly migrant-smuggling incident in recent memory – immigration specialists have raised concerns about the alleged corruption that could have allowed such a tragedy to happen.
To sector experts like analyst and lawyer Jaime Ortiz, a trailer of such size with an abundance of people inside could purportedly not pass through the U.S. border without additional help, pointing to the high-security border checkpoints for commercial trucks and noting that these investigations fall underneath the jurisdiction of the Texas Highway Police.
The Texas Highway Police traditionally review vehicles passing through the border with a visual inspection, and if any flags are raised, the corresponding vehicle goes through a rigorous inspection process with the full infrastructure of a workshop capable of lifting trucks off of their wheels to see their underbellies – procedural methodologies that were evidently overlooked or intentionally ignored as per June 27’s events.
“There has to be corruption on both sides of the border,” Ortiz, who lives in El Paso, told Mexican daily newspaper El Universal. “It would not be the first time. It cannot be explained in any other way. A trailer of that size loaded with 50 people inside, and nobody noticed? Impossible.”
He went on to say, “It is being investigated whether the truck was already loaded when it crossed the border or if it was loaded on the U.S. side. In any case, there are at least two checkpoints where that trailer should have stopped to be checked, and everything suggests that it did pass them, by necessity, but the truck was not checked.”
Ortiz also said that although a truck that is going to be inspected in depth is chosen at random, “the truth is that those who traffic in people cannot take risks and must definitely ensure their passage without being inspected.”
Ortiz likewise pointed out how there are multiple checkpoints past the U.S. border located between 25 and 75 miles from the crossing, as established by the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP).
“The authorities of the United States and Mexico have a lot to investigate also in terms of corruption on the border. Every time there is a case of these characteristics, corruption could be the cause of death,” said Ortiz.
As of Wednesday, June 29, two Mexican nationals have been arrested and charged by U.S. authorities surrounding June 27’s deadly discovery, while any involvement on the U.S. side has yet to be revealed.