'Tragedy came to our doorstep': Officials speak out on fatal human trafficking crime

Local, federal officials referred to incident as horrific tragedy

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - Local and federal officials released statements and took to social media Sunday to speak on what many have described as a "horrific" human trafficking crime that took the lives of 8 people and hospitalized 30 others.

READ THE INITIAL REPORT: 8 people found dead inside of semi-truck trailer on SW side in 'human trafficking crime'

RELATED: 8 dead, 30 hospitalized in smuggler's big rig: Here's what we know

SUNDAY NIGHT VIGIL: Vigil to be held at 6 p.m. at San Fernando Cathedral for trafficking victims

Here's what officials had to say about the tragedy:

Thomas Homan
Acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

“By any standard, the horrific crime uncovered last night ranks as a stark reminder of why human smuggling networks must  be pursued, caught and punished.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations works year-round to identify, dismantle, and disrupt the transnational criminal networks that smuggle people into and throughout the United States. These networks have repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for those they smuggle, as last night’s case demonstrates. I personally worked on a tragic tractor trailer case in Victoria, Texas in 2003 in which 19 people were killed as a result of the smugglers’ total indifference to the safety of those smuggled and to the law. The men and women of ICE are proud to stand alongside our law enforcement partners, including locally and at the U.S. Department of Justice, to combat these smuggling networks and protect the public and those who would fall victim to their dangerous practices that focus solely on their illicit profits.  So long as I lead ICE, there will be an unwavering commitment to use law enforcement assets to put an end to these practices.”

Richard L. Durbin, Jr. 
Western District U.S. Attorney 

"San Antonio firefighters and police responded to a horrific scene this morning on the southwest side of town. They discovered an alien smuggling venture gone horribly wrong. Eight immigrants were found dead. At least twenty more were in serious condition. All were victims of ruthless human smugglers indifferent to the well- being of their fragile cargo. The South Texas heat is punishing this time of year. These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters. Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in 100-plus degree heat. The driver is in custody and will be charged. We will work with the Homeland Security Investigations and the local responders to identify those who were responsible for this tragedy."

Ron Nirenberg 
San Antonio Mayor

“We are still learning about the tragic events that unfolded on our doorstep overnight, which shines a bright light on the plight of immigrants looking for a better life and victims of human trafficking. As we work to coordinate a humanitarian and legal response to this terrible tragedy, I find comfort in the compassionate response of our first-responders, our local medical professionals and the outpouring of support from our community. I want to thank the Wal-Mart employee who provided water and called 911, an act that helped us prevent more deaths. We will continue to work closely with local groups and federal agencies to offer support to the survivors and connect them with their families. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who was impacted by this terrible loss of life. Our response should serve as a lesson to the world that San Antonio will not turn its back on any man, woman or child in need.”

Rey Saldana
District 4 City Councilman

"I woke up to a call from Police Chief McManus at 2:30 a.m. describing a horrific human tragedy. While arriving on scene, I was struck with the gut-wrenching reality that dozens of individuals were suffering in an enclosed trailer under the insufferable Texas heat. It should sadden us all that eight people took their last breath, and dozens more are being treated with serious symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration due to a tragic situation that often goes unnoticed.

San Antonio and other South Texas cities are confronted with the unique challenge of addressing a corridor of human trafficking that places us under the intense pressure to be vigilant and responsive. I want to thank our San Antonio Police Officers and San Antonio Fire Department EMT responders that were first on scene and treated the surviving individuals. The Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are now taking the lead with a driver who has been apprehended and brought in for questioning.

These individuals were victims of ruthless human smugglers indifferent to the well-being of their fragile cargo. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that this unthinkable journey was perhaps the best alternative for individuals looking for a better life.

For over a century, immigrants have looked to the United States as a beacon of hope and opportunity. As long as that remains true, people will continue to do everything they can to get here, and as we saw this morning, this includes risking their lives.”

Joaquin Castro
Congressman

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