Wednesday, August 10, 2022

“A lot of bad things have happened here”: the red zone for migrant smuggling where 51 of San Antonio died

Fabiola and Alondra Barbosa pray with a nail on a dirt shoulder in front of a Virgin of Guadalupe. Two sisters, 34 and 36, brought a photo of Mexico’s patron saint to remember the 51 migrants who, without water and no air, on a lost highway on the outskirts this Tuesday, in an abandoned trailer were found dead. San Antony, Texas. The younger sister says, “We recognize her because we too have come here in search of a better life.” A day later, the site of the tragedy is transformed into an improvised altar of crosses and candles, which is the site of the area. It is reached by residents more than two hours away from the border.

Most of them are also expatriates, such as the Barbosa sisters, who with a little more luck reached the southern United States, but who are well versed in the test of crossing without papers. In fact, two of his relatives managed to pass inside another trailer on a nearby highway a month ago. “It has been a place to pass through for many years as the train runs through here,” explains the older sister, pointing to the train almost hidden in the bushes.

The train runs parallel to the road where the trailer appears, a narrow, poorly paved track surrounded by brush and empty lots. Decades ago, prior to the construction of the highway, which leads to the bypass, it was one of the main roads leading north of Texas. Today it is an almost forgotten road. On the shoulders where the Virgin and Cross of Guadalupe are placed, there are heaps of rubbish and burnt relics.

But freight trains continue to operate on a route entering Texas from the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo, one of the hot spots for drug mafia. The San Antonio Railroad is one of several forks of La Bestia or El Devoramigrants, the obvious nickname of the train that comes from Mexico’s southern border and was one of the main Mafia routes a decade ago.

New mods of organized crime include trailers. In recent years, truck accidents have become common on Mexican soil, suggesting that the load they are carrying is dozens of overcrowded migrants. Not so much on American soil. Although already in 2003, another 19 people died inside a trailer in Victoria, another Texas city on the Gulf Coast.

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Tuesday is the biggest tragedy for now. When the police opened the doors of the trailer, 87 migrants were found who, according to preliminary data, were hit by the truck. Most Mexican and Central American. 16 survivors are being treated in nearby hospitals. The police have already arrested three accused. His specific involvement in the incidents is not yet known or why the truck was abandoned in this lost area.

“it got worse”

The one closest to the road is an industrial estate with workshops specializing in truck parts. Leonardo Rocamontes is 74 years old and has been in charge of a workshop for more than 50 years. Sitting in his office, between the size of an apple and other greasy irons, he explains the various stages of the event: “When I arrived, it was all a quiet forest. But a lot of bad things happened here in recent years.” Huh.” Highway abandonment, unlit or barely paved, attracts prostitution, one of the businesses controlled by organized crime. His grandson found the body of a woman in the bushes about 10 years ago.

This was the time when the bloodthirsty Zeta dominated the flow of migrants along the east coast from the Mexican border states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas to La Bestia. “They got here because the train is slow, almost at a turn, because there is an intersection ahead,” recalls Leonardo. In his workshop, exhausted dead bodies were seen asking him to use the phone. Sometimes cars would come to pick them up and, depending on the mechanical boss, they were taken to Houston or, further afield, to work on farms in North Carolina. The flow decreased for a few years but it has happened again in recent months.

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“It’s gotten worse. Before you didn’t see it so much because they were small amounts. Now, since it’s more difficult to cross, more people gather and it’s more noticeable,” he explains in Spanish that his grandparents, Mexicans from Coahuila, taught him. Two weeks ago a group of more than 10 people arrived. They asked if they could sleep in one of his trucks. And at night they hosed down the workshop. “They went very grateful.”

The numbers agree with the testimony of the head of the Texan workshop. May broke the record for undocumented immigrants entering the country with more than 239,000. And Texas, with a border of more than 1,000 kilometers with Mexico, about half of the total border area, is one of the hot spots. The governments of Joe Biden and Andres Manuel López Obrador have been negotiating a common agenda for months to tackle the problem.

Migration is also a major concern for the Democratic Party, which faces parliamentary elections in November under siege from the Republican side, which uses the development of the migrant phenomenon as a hammer to feed its most conservative voters. Is. The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, who two months ago caused a collapse at the border with extraordinary controls on trucks arriving from Mexico, has said: “These are dead Biden.”

In addition to praying for the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Barbosa sisters also have a message for politicians who wake up to ghosts fearing migrants. The youngest works in Takaria and the oldest in the cleaning houses. “When we don’t have papers, they are handy for us. For those who don’t want to and those who pay us less for being illegal”, explains Biggest, who gives another example. His two brothers-in-law, who had been hiding in another truck a month ago, are now working as bricklayers, “paying daily, black and uninsured.”

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