From October 2000 through September 2016, there have been 6,403 deaths recorded by the Border Patrol. According to The New York Times, more people have died trying to cross the border illegally in that timespan than there were deaths for the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina combined. And that's only accounting for the fatalities that have been documented.
The dangerous reality for undocumented immigrants crossing the border to seek a better future for themselves and their families is that their lives are at stake. Many have continued to take that risk. Many have not made it out alive.
On July 23, authorities found eight dead bodies in a tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, Texas.
The victims died from heat exposure and asphyxiation — and of the remaining people who were in the truck, 20 of them are in critical condition.
The cooling system inside the truck wasn't operational. Fire Department spokesman Joe Arrington said, "It was pretty obvious. They were very hot to the touch. There’s the potential for irreversible brain damage if it’s not treated fast enough. Brain damage, organ failure, and other system issues."
Fire Chief Charles Hood added that each patient had heart rates over 130 beats per minute.
As heartbreaking as the situation is, it could have been far worse had it not been for a person who left the truck and went into Walmart to ask for some water.
The employee gave the person water and then alerted the police.
The New York Times reports that two of the people found were "school-age children"; many of those being smuggled were from Mexico and Guatemala.
"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," US attorney Richard Durbin said in a statement.
The driver of the truck, 60-year-old James M. Bradley Jr. of Florida, was taken to a federal jail.
This chilling situation isn't uncommon but it is re-sparking the ever-controversial conversation surrounding immigration reform, sanctuary cities, and border control.
"Today's tragedy is why I made passing Senate Bill 4 to ban sanctuary cities — which is now law — a top priority. Sanctuary cities entice people to believe they can come to America and Texas and live outside the law," lieutenant governor Dan Patrick wrote on his Facebook account.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who has condemned the sanctuary cities law, shared a more sympathetic message in the wake of the event. "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. 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," he said.
"Fortunately we came across this one, fortunately there are people who survived. But this happens all the time."
San Antonio Police chief William McManus reminded everyone what really happens during these journeys. "It happens late at night, under darkness because they don’t want to be discovered, obviously, but anybody who sees anything like this, people being transferred out of the back of a trailer or being transferred from some vehicle to another vehicle, then they need to call 911," he said.