In late June, 53 migrants died after being abandoned in a trailer in south-west San Antonio, Texas, marking the highest ever death toll from a human trafficking event near the US-Mexico border. More than half of the victims were originally from Mexico while 14 were from Honduras, seven from Guatemala, and two from El Salvador.
This tragedy highlights the ongoing humanitarian crisis along the deadliest migration land route and shows that despite the ongoing pandemic, an increasing number of people from Latin America and the Caribbean are undertaking dangerous irregular journeys. The discovery of the abandoned trailer brings the total number of deaths on the United States-Mexico border crossing to 493 in 2022.
According to the International Organisation for Migration, movement restrictions enacted in response to the pandemic may have led to a “funnel effect,” driving migrants with limited options to increasingly dangerous routes. The author of the report said that “the number of deaths on the United States-Mexico border last year is significantly higher than in any year prior, even before COVID-19.” IOM reported that 1,238 people died during migration in the Americas in 2021, including 51 children. Of these 1,238 deaths, at least 728 occurred on the United States-Mexico border.
On Monday 13 June 2022, the US Supreme Court ruled that migrants detained in the country are not entitled to a bond hearing, meaning that the thousands of people with ongoing immigration cases being held in federal facilities can continue being detained indefinitely. In addition, the high court ruled that the country’s federal courts lack the authority to grant class-wide relief to detainees. In consequence, if detainees wish to argue that they have the right to a bond hearing, they will have to bring individual cases even though migrants are not permitted counsel during migration proceedings. According to TIME, the ruling effectively maintains the status quo. Muzaffar Christi, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute stated that the ruling is not a surprise, but nonetheless represents a “pretty strong statement.” He added: “it does not raise any more hopes for people who have been held in prolonged detention, that there may be a reprieve for them.”
The Transnational Records Access Clearinghouse found that on average, only around 21 percent of people in immigration detention in the US are able to access legal representation. The organisation estimated that as of 5 June 2022, more than 24,000 people were held in immigration detention in the country, of whom only 5,800 were detained in facilities operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While the average detention timeframe is estimated to be around 55 days according to the American Immigration Council, many people are detained for several years as their cases progress through an increasingly backlogged immigration court system.
- M. Carlisle & J. Aguilera, “Supreme Court Rules Thousands of Immigrants Can be Detained Indefinitely,” Time, 13 June 2022, https://time.com/6187133/supreme-court-immigrants-bond-hearings/
- A. Kassam & R. A. Vargas, “Fifty-One Migrants Found Dead Inside Abandoned Texas Trailer Truck,” The Guardian, 28 June 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jun/27/texas-trailer-truck-dead-people-san-antonio
- D. M. Pérez & E. Camhaji, “Texas Tragedy: Trailer Carrying Migrants Passed Through Two US Checkpoints,” 30 June 2022, https://english.elpais.com/usa/2022-06-30/texas-tragedy-trailer-carrying-migrants-passed-through-two-checkpoints.html
- J. Galindo & S. Msehli, “Latest Migrant Tragedy in Texas Highlights Crisis Along Deadliest Migration Land Route,” International Organisation for Migration, 1 July 2022, https://www.iom.int/news/latest-migrant-tragedy-texas-highlights-crisis-along-deadliest-migration-land-route
- Police and First Responders Standing Next to the Trailer (Eric Gay, “Texas Tragedy: Trailer Carrying Migrants Passed Through Two US Checkpoints,” El País, 30 June 2022, https://english.elpais.com/usa/2022-06-30/texas-tragedy-trailer-carrying-migrants-passed-through-two-checkpoints.html)