DALLAS — The deaths of 51 migrants in a packed semi-trailer in San Antonio are setting off a fresh round of finger-pointing and blame-slinging in Texas and Washington, D.C. But data shows it is the most recent in a decades-old problem that shows the desperation of migrants hoping to reach the United States.
"It's a humanitarian tragedy," San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said as the death count continued to rise.
"We're not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there," San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said on the afternoon of the grisly discovery.
Within a few hours, Governor Greg Abbott tweeted "these deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies."
Tuesday afternoon, in a statement to WFAA, the Governor said:
"This horrific tragedy of dozens left to die in a tractor-trailer could have been prevented if President Biden would do his job and secure the border. The federal government is complicit in Mexican cartels' human smuggling enterprise, encouraging migrants to risk their lives by not enforcing our nation's laws and allowing historic levels of illegal crossings."
Not exactly the way Domingo Garcia sees it.
"Governor Abbott said that President Biden was to blame for open borders," the National President of LULAC said. "Well if the borders were open, these immigrants wouldn't risk their lives being in the back of an 18-wheeler trailer in 100-degree Texas temperature and paying human smugglers to get them across."
"The fact of the matter is the border is militarized, the border is closed. The result is you are funneling all of the refugees and immigrants into the hands of these cartels and these human smugglers," Garcia said.
President Biden released a statement Tuesday afternoon that said in part "my administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry. This incident underscores the need to go after the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and leading to far too many innocent deaths."
Tragedies like this, sadly, are not new. In 2017, six months into the Trump administration, eight people were found dead among 40 packed inside a semitrailer parked at a San Antonio Walmart.
In 2003, 19 dead in a dairy truck in Victoria, Texas. George W. Bush was president then. And according to the Missing Migrants Project, there have been 2,980 deaths of migrants trying to cross the US-Mexico border since 2014.
Still, the political blame game continues. In a tweet, Senator Ted Cruz said "human traffickers are exploiting the open border and the most vulnerable are paying for it with their lives."
In contrast, Beto O'Rourke tweeted "We need urgent action - dismantle human smuggling rings and replace them with expanded avenues for legal migration..."
"I mean it's just a human tragedy that's being caused by our broken immigration system," added Garcia.
A system with plenty of blame being thrown, left and right, but whose problems remain unsolved.