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Scores of migrants found dead in truck in Texas

The bodies of 46 dead migrants were discovered inside a tractor-trailer on Monday in San Antonio, Texas, the city’s fire department said, in one of the most deadly recent incidents of human smuggling along the US-Mexico border.

The truck was found next to railroad tracks in a remote area on the city’s southern outskirts and a San Antonio Fire Department official said they found “stacks of bodies” and no signs of water in the truck.

There were another 16 people found inside the trailer who were transported to hospitals with heat stroke and exhaustion, including four minors, but no children were among the dead, the department said.

Temperatures in San Antonio, which is about 250 km from the Mexican border, swelled to a high of 39.4 degrees Celsius on Monday with high humidity.

The city’s Police Chief William McManus said a person who works in a nearby building heard a cry for help and came out to investigate. The worker found the trailer doors partially opened and looked inside and found a number of dead bodies.

Mr McManus said there is now a federal investigation and that three people were in custody following the incident, though their involvement is not yet clear.

A spokesperson for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that its Homeland Security Investigations division was investigating “an alleged human smuggling event” in coordination with local police.

The deaths once again highlight the challenge of controlling illegal migration across the US-Mexico border. Republicans have criticised US President Joe Biden’s border strategy ahead of the midterm congressional elections in November.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, was blunt in a tweet about the president: “These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies.”

Migrants, mostly from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, have been expelled more than two million times under a pandemic-era rule, Title 42 expulsions, introduced in March 2020. The regulation encourages repeat attempts because there are no legal consequences for getting caught. Those from other countries, in particular Cuba, Nicaragua and Colombia, are subject to Title 42 authority less frequently due to higher costs of sending them home, strained diplomatic relations and other considerations.

US Customs and Border Protection reported 557 deaths on the southwest border in the 12-month period ending September 30, more than double the 247 deaths reported in the previous year and the highest since it began keeping track in 1998. Most are related to heat exposure.

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