SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Victims have been found with no identification documents at all and in one case a stolen ID. Remote villages lack phone service to reach family members and determine the whereabouts of missing migrants. Fingerprint data has to be shared and matched by different governments.
More than a day after the discovery of a stifling trailer in San Antonio where dozens of migrants died after being abandoned in the sweltering heat, few identities of the victims have been made public, illustrating the challenges authorities face in tracing people who cross borders clandestinely.
The number of dead rose to 53 on Wednesday after two more migrants died, according to the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office. Forty of the victims were male and 13 were female, it said.
Officials had potential identifications on 37 of the victims as of Wednesday morning, pending verification with authorities in other countries.
“It’s a tedious, tedious, sad, difficult process,” said Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores, who represents the district where the truck was abandoned.
The bodies were discovered Monday afternoon on the outskirts of San Antonio in what is believed to be the nation’s deadliest smuggling episode on the U.S.-Mexico border. More than a dozen people were taken to hospitals, including four children. Three people have been arrested.
The truck, which was registered in Alamo, Texas, but had fake plates and logos, was carrying 67 migrants, Francisco Garduño, chief of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, said Wednesday.
The driver was apprehended after trying to pretend he was one of the migrants, Garduño said. Two other Mexican men also have been detained, he said.
Among the dead were 27 people from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador, he said. One of the victims had no identification, Garduño said.
The tragedy occurred at a time when huge numbers of migrants have been coming to the U.S., many of them taking perilous risks to cross swift rivers and canals and scorching desert landscapes. Migrants were stopped nearly 240,000 times in May, up by one-third from a year ago.