Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday appeared to blame the victims in last week’s migrant-truck horror that left 53 people dead — saying the Biden administration has repeatedly warned those trying to cross the border how dangerous it is.
Mayorkas was trying to fight off critics who have blamed the administration’s alleged lax border policies for the tragedy.
“We have said repeatedly and we continue to warn people not to take the dangerous journey,” Mayorkas said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
“We saw so tragically in San Antonio, Texas, one of the possible tragic results of that dangerous journey, and so many people don’t even make it that far in the hands of exploitative smugglers.”
He said migrants who are traveling from Central and South America to the US-Mexico border are receiving false information from trafficking cartels before making the journey.
“They put their lives, their life savings, in the hands of these exploitative organizations, these criminal organizations that do not care for their lives and only seek to make a profit,” Mayorkas said.
On Monday, a sweltering 18-wheeler was found abandoned on the side of a remote road in San Antonio — and the bodies of dozens of dead migrants were found stacked inside, with several corpses also discovered on the ground nearby.
The truck had no working air conditioning despite temperatures reaching as high as 103 degrees.
Charges have been filed against the driver and one of his associates.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was among the first to blame the Biden administration after the tragedy.
“These deaths are on Biden,” Abbott seethed on Twitter late Monday. “They are a result of his deadly open border policies.
“They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law,” the Republican governor added.
Authorities said the truck had crossed the border in Laredo, about 150 miles south of where it had been found, after having been “cloned” to resemble a legal vehicle owned by a local trucking company.
Asked by CBS’ Margaret Brennan how the truck was able to cross into the US, Mayorkas said the smugglers have become more sophisticated over the past decades.
“They have evolved over the last 30 years. … Now, they are very sophisticated using technology, and they’re extraordinarily organized transnational criminal enterprises. And we are much more sophisticated using technology and personnel 24 hours a day,” he said.
He acknowledged that smugglers can use “sophisticated means” to get a truck across the border but that the US at the same time is ramping up its efforts using technology and manpower to thwart such efforts.
“But I have to say, we have interdicted more drugs at the ports of entry than ever before. We’ve rescued more migrants. We’re seeing a challenge that is really regional, hemispheric in scope, and we’re addressing it accordingly,” Mayorkas said.