A criminal complaint has revealed the alarming text messages exchanged by the alleged organiser and driver of the migrant smuggling operation that left 53 people dead in San Antonio earlier this week.
Christian Martinez, 28, has been arrested and charged with human trafficking resulting in death as the chief mastermind of the operation. The text messages reported in the criminal complaint show his agitation with the driver of the tractor-trailer transporting the migrants, 45-year-old Homero Zamorano Jr.
According to the complaint, obtained by The Daily Beast, Mr Martinez first texted Mr Zamorano shortly after noon on Monday with a photograph of the vehicle’s “manifesto.” Mr Zamorano allegedly responded that he was “going to the same place,” minutes later, Mr Martinez sent an address in Laredo just three miles from the border.
After that, Mr Zamorano stopped replying to Mr Martinez’s messages. This seemed to trouble Mr Martinez, who began incessantly texting his alleged partner asking him where he was. The documents state that he received no reply.
By Monday evening, Mr Zamorano had allegedly left the truck next to railroad tracks in San Antonio. When police responded to emergency calls from people nearby, they discovered what is now the deadliest smuggling incident in US history.
Mr Zamorano, who had crouched down in the scrub near the abandoned vehicle and allegedly tried to portray himself as a victim, was taken into custody by police that evening. He is facing the same charge as Mr Martinez, which carries with it the possibility of life in prison or the death penalty.
The episode has served as a sobering reminder of the astonishing violence that migrants in the US and around the world routinely face trying to cross and navigate borders. According to reporting from the Texas Tribune, at least 650 migrants died crossing the US-Mexico border last year — the most since the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration began tracking deaths in 2014.
Many of those migrants die of dehydration and heat, the same factors that led to the deaths in San Antonio. The fact that San Antonio was the site of the disaster, and not a border town in the southern part of the state, is a reminder of the ways in which the border functions beyond its physical demarcations.
51 migrants dead in San Antonio and 37 African migrants dead in Melilla. These are border killings, not passive deaths. Doctrine of deterrence *requires* mass death at borders. Borders - not symptom & easy scapegoat of "smuggling & trafficking networks" - needs to be abolished.
— Harsha Walia (@HarshaWalia) June 29, 2022
The migrant deaths in San Antonio were not the only migrant deaths in recent days. At least 23 migrants died at the border between the Spanish autonomous city of Melilla in north Africa and Morocco, prompting protests in Spain and the Moroccan capital of Rabat.
The Mexican government has stated that roughly half of the 53 people who died in San Antonio were Mexicans. The government’s National Migration Institute has also reported that of the remaining victims, 14 were Hondurans, seven from Guatemala, and two from El Salvador.
In addition to the text messages, the criminal complaint also states that Mr Martinez told a confidential informant prior to his arrest that he was unaware the truck’s air conditioning was not working. Temperatures inside the vehicle are believed to have reached 150 degrees.