ST. PAUL, Minn. - A deadly human smuggling operation in Texas has a Minnesota connection. According to court documents, one of the survivors and his brother were en route to Minnesota.
A stiflingly hot tractor trailer filled with undocumented immigrants was found in San Antonio, Texas on July 23rd after the police received a call from an area Walmart. A Walmart employee called for help after one of the immigrants escaped the truck and came inside looking for water.
Authorities discovered eight undocumented immigrants dead inside the trailer. Two others later died at the hospital. According to court documents, 30-40 immigrants were taken to the hospital, some in critical condition. They had been in the trailer with no food or water. The documents show that people inside began to take turns breathing out of the only ventilation hole.
The driver of the truck, James Matthew Bradley, Jr., was arrested and could face the death penalty if convicted. He denied knowing there were people inside the trailer.
The criminal complaint details a sophisticated smuggling operation. Survivors told police they’d paid Mexico’s “Zetas” drug cartel to help smuggle them across the Rio Grande river by raft. Then, they were taken to the trailer paying another $5,000 to be delivered to the United States. One survivor said he was traveling with his brother on his way to Minnesota.
“In my experience, that is more common than we think and it’s common because of the desperation right now,” said Sister Margaret McGuirk of Incarnation Catholic Church in Minneapolis.
McGuirk ministers to Latino immigrants in Minnesota, some with similar stories. McGuirk recalls one woman so desperate to escape the violence that she walked with her two children from Guatemala. She has also worked on the Mexican border assisting families who have crossed the border seeking asylum.
“It’s just incredible what they suffer. The heat and hunger and the thirst,” she said.
Many of the immigrants she meets have come to Minnesota to reunite with family or seeking work. Many have harrowing tales of their own crossings and stories of loved ones who have disappeared.
She says they take the risk because they are out of options in their homelands, fearful of the murderous gangs that have taken hold of some Central American nations.
“They’re really afraid of the gangs, extortion, taking their children, taking their girls and using them,” she said. “They’re desperate. And when you’re desperate you find a way to do it.