May 2, 2024 - World

Mexican smugglers are increasingly using semitrailers to transport migrants

a man who is injured and bandaged sits while another woman lays down

A Red Cross site in Chiapas, Mexico, tends to injured migrants who were on a cargo truck that crashed, killing 56 people, in December 2021. Photo: Mau Aquino/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Smugglers in Mexico are increasingly using overloaded semitrailers to transport people trying to enter the U.S., often with deadly consequences, an investigation from Noticias Telemundo found.

The big picture: The situation lays bare the human toll of modern migration amid the growing and increasingly dangerous human smuggling industry.

State of play: Noticias Telemundo, the Latin American journalism consortium CLIP and other local partners reconstructed the journeys and routes taken by 170 cargo trucks involved in either crashes or other incidents in Mexico in the past six years.

  • They found that almost 19,000 people — 3,000 of them minors — were transported in the trucks involved in incidents, and 111 died.
  • Trailers are often overcrowded and result in people dying from a lack of oxygen or being exposed to extreme temperatures.
  • Only 35 people have been convicted of smuggling and endangering people with the use of trailers — a rate of impunity that immigrant advocates say has fostered the problem.

What they're saying: Smugglers could choose to occasionally open doors to semi-tractor trailers, "but they don't care," says Yanira Chávez, who was smuggled through Mexico in a trailer in 2019.

  • Chávez is currently trying to get asylum while living in Long Island, New York.
  • "They just want the money and think of us as packages, not people."

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