The deadliest migrant tragedy must lead to humane immigrant policies in USA

Tragedy must motivate US authorities to carry out immigration reforms in real earnest above all kinds of politics and party lines and interests

Satyen Mohapatra
Satyen Mohapatra

The whole issue of people migrating from one country to another looking for a  better life has tragically come into focus with 46 persons found dead on Monday, jammed into the back of a truck in one of the deadliest migrant tragedies in recent decades.

They were being smuggled into the US near the Mexican border and the vehicle was located in San Antonio, Texas. Sixteen others including four children, in a state of heat stroke with dehydration and exhaustion, were admitted to hospitals. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg called the incident “a horrific human tragedy.”

This case must sound off alarm bells in the minds of US administrators that immigration cannot be treated as a political issue as it has a huge human dimension. Whatever may be the political and socio-economic pressures of a country particularly a country like the US which takes pride in its just and fair system cannot leave its illegal immigrants to die.

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Who were those who are responsible for this huge human tragedy? The Federal authorities who have already taken up the case must find them and the earliest and hold them accountable.

Clearly, in this case, in fear and desperation, some of the illegal immigrants had pried open the back of the truck and come out and called for help which led to the discovery of the bodies but also saved the lives of others who were hospitalized.

But imagine the horrible dark death the immigrants had been led to in the dark dingy back of the steel walls of the truck with temperatures soaring to 100 degrees. This was nothing short of a “hell hole” into which the human smugglers had put these pitiable people.

The tragedy must motivate US authorities to carry out immigration reforms in real earnest above all kinds of politics and party lines and interests.

In 2003, 19 migrants were found dead in a truck in the Walmart parking lot again in San Antonio.

But then these kinds of tragic incidents are not confined to the US with other similar incidents happening elsewhere like the horrible case of 58 Chinese immigrants found dead in a truck in the port town of Dover, England, in the year 2000, or 54 Burmese migrants dying inside a refrigerated truck in Rangoon, Thailand, in April 2008, or 35 Afghan migrants suffocating inside a shipping container in Pakistan in April 2009.

All these deaths do bring to the fore the point that men are willing to take all possible risks in their attempt to improve their living conditions and many are gullible and willing enough to be lured by the rosy pictures painted by the human smuggles that lead them to their death.

Illegal immigrants do put pressure on the existing socio-economic infrastructure and every country has the right to put in place firm measures to stop illegal immigration. But at no stage can we close our eyes to the fact that we are dealing with human beings who cannot be treated like any other commodity.

Terror attacks in the US made the US authorities stricter as far as immigrants were concerned and the illegal crossing became much riskier, more difficult, and expensive.

Former President Trump was not in favor of immigration and was the one who talked of building a wall on the Mexican border. The incumbent Biden has a much more lenient and flexible view.

No wonder  Texas Governor a Republican, Greg Abbott  who has launched  Operation Lone Star ostensibly  to check illegal immigration  has said the deaths resulted from President Joe Biden’s “deadly open border policies.”

Republicans feel that the Democratic government of Biden is not doing much to curtail illegal immigration.

In this kind of contentious issue, one feels that a balanced view and stand is what is required. It is not that the balanced view has not been voiced, at least the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Domingo García has urged, “Both Democrats and Republicans need to work together on a new bipartisan immigration bill. The reforms must allow us to bring in legal guest workers and open legal avenues for people to come in to help our economy”.

“These steps will prevent these refugees and immigrants from being thrown into the hands of human smugglers and coyotes who are willing to risk the lives of others for a dollar, as well as American employers who want cheap labor that can be exploited. It’s time for politicians in Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reforms to address these issues and avoid other tragedies”

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