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Dozens of people are found dead inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We begin with news out of Texas. At least 46 people have been found dead after being trapped in a tractor trailer in San Antonio.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

There was some hope, though. Police say 16 others, including children, were found alive and taken to area hospitals.

MARTIN: Texas Public Radio's Joey Palacios is with us now. Joey, good morning.

JOEY PALACIOS, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: You were at the scene, I understand, where authorities found this truck. Describe what you saw.

PALACIOS: So Quintana Road is a very unassuming road. Most people really never drive down it. But today there was a flurry of police vehicles. You could see the tractor trailer from where the media and the public was able to stand as these vehicles - police vehicles - were surrounding it.

MARTIN: What do we know at this point?

PALACIOS: There's still a lot of unanswered questions, like where the truck came from and where it was heading. We're still trying to learn more about who these victims were and their circumstances. We know three people have been arrested, but we don't know their connection to what happened. All signs point to this tragedy being related to human smuggling. San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said the 12 adults and four children found alive in the truck were hot to the touch and suffered from heat exhaustion.

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CHARLES HOOD: No signs of water in the vehicle. It was a refrigerated tractor trailer, but there was no visible working AC unit on that rig.

PALACIOS: And keep in mind, in San Antonio, we've been experiencing triple-digit temperatures in recent days.

MARTIN: How was law enforcement able to find this truck, find these people?

PALACIOS: San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said a worker at a nearby facility heard somebody crying for help.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILLIAM MCMANUS: Came out to investigate, found a trailer with the doors partially opened, opened them up to take a look and found a number of deceased individuals inside.

PALACIOS: Now McManus says the incident is under federal jurisdiction with Homeland Security Investigations.

MARTIN: This has happened before in Texas, hasn't it?

PALACIOS: Sadly, it has. In 2017, 10 migrants died in a similar fashion. That trailer was found in a Walmart parking lot here in San Antonio and contained potentially more than 100 people. But we don't know the exact number because some people fled. That trailer was unventilated and had no water as well. We've seen less tragic instances. Later that same year, another trailer with a dozen migrants was found in December in much cooler weather. All 12 were unharmed. And I'll say this happens a lot near San Antonio because of the geography here. It's close to the border. We're about 150 miles away. And Interstate 35, which goes from Mexico to Canada, passes through San Antonio, and it also connects with Interstate 10 here, which goes from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Fla. So for many smuggling operations, it's a straight shot from border to border and coast to coast.

MARTIN: And, I mean, it's just worth noting the politics of this, right? I mean, this happened in the state of Texas in an election year. No doubt it's going to become a political talking point.

PALACIOS: Right. So an hour after the news broke, Governor Greg Abbott retweeted the conservative Daily Wire online newspaper, blaming the incident on President Joe Biden's immigration policies. Meanwhile, his opponent, Beto O'Rourke, called for increased legal pathways to citizenship that don't incentivize these dangerous journeys. The League of United Latin American Citizens, one of the largest Latino civil rights organization in the country, called for responsible dialogue on immigration following this tragedy. Now, they say the only way forward from a tragedy like this is Democrats and Republicans working together on immigration reform.

MARTIN: Texas Public Radio's Joey Palacios reporting from San Antonio. He is also co-host of the "Line In The Land" podcast. Joey, thank you.

PALACIOS: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Joey Palacios

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