Two undocumented Mexican nationals allegedly linked to the deadly smuggling operation that left 51 men and women dead in the back of a sweltering semi-trailer in Texas were charged by federal prosecutors with firearm-related offenses on Tuesday.
According to documents from the U.S. District Court, the Western District of Texas Juan Francisco D’Luna–Bilbao was charged with possession of firearms in the United States while they were not legal residents, The Hill reported.
The men were found after authorities tracked the truck’s registered number to a San Antonio home, which was then under surveillance according to Reuters.
The men were seen leaving the house in two separate cars. Police pulled them over and discovered the weapons.
A third suspect was reportedly a U.S. citizen who drove the truck. He has yet to be charged, but he was taken into custody.
Prosecutors requested that the Mexican suspects not be released without bond. The Hill reported. They each face steep prison sentences and hefty fines up to $250,000.
The bodies of the 39 men and 12 women were discovered in the back of a semi-trailer on the outskirts of San Antonio on Monday in what U.S. and Mexican authorities described as the deadliest human trafficking incident in recent times.
Temperatures at the location where the truck was found, near some train tracks, had swelled to a high of 103 Fahrenheit (around 39 Celsius).
Sixteen individuals, a mix of adults and minors, who were found alive in the truck were transported to the hospital, according to authorities.
According to officials, among the 51 dead were at least 27 Mexicans, three Guatemalans, and four Hondurans, Reuters reported. The nationality of other victims was not disclosed.
Mexican President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that the incident was caused by poverty in victims’ homes and U.S. border security problems.
” These unfortunate events have to do, of course with the desperate poverty of our Central American brothers and Mexicans,” he stated during his daily briefing. It happens due to human trafficking, lack of control, and in this instance, at the United States border.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (a Republican) directly blamed the tragedy for the U.S. President Joe Biden’s “open border” policies.
” These deaths are at Biden. These deaths are due to his open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law,” he wrote on Twitter.
But the White House disagrees that the southern border is open, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters, “The fact of the matter is the border is closed.”
On Tuesday, Biden described the incident as “horrifying and heartbreaking” in a statement in which he vowed to crack down on the multi-billion-dollar criminal smuggling enterprises that have helped fuel a record number of migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border since he took office in January 2021.
” “It is shameful to exploit vulnerable people for profit,” Biden stated.
Allen Zhong contributed to this report.
Caden Pearson, a journalist based in Australia. His background includes documentary and screenwriting. Contact him on [email protected]