The 11 immigrants who survived the horrific botched smuggling attempt into the US that left 53 dead in the back of a tractor-trailer in Texas might get to stay in the country legally, says a US congressman.
“[The Department of Homeland Security] is looking into the potential applicability of T and U visas for the survivors. These visas provide victims of human trafficking and other crimes with protections from deportation and help law enforcement prosecute those responsible,” tweeted San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro.
In June, the surviving immigrants were pulled from a big rig where over 70 victims were crammed into inhumane, suffocating conditions in the back of a trailer with no air conditioning or ventilation.
The truck was found in San Antonio, where investigators described finding “stacks of bodies” inside when they arrived.
Twenty-six of the 53 victims died of heat and dehydration. Local temperatures measured over 103 degrees when the bodies were discovered.
Initially, 16 immigrants survived and were taken to area hospitals, but as the hours passed, five more died, bringing the death toll to 53. A priest who visited six of the victims in the hospital told The Post one immigrant’s heart stopped three times, while others were unable to speak as they were intubated.
The potential visas for the survivors offer varying degrees of protection, including from deportation.
The T visa is for victims of “severe human trafficking” and grants holders an initial legal stay in the US of up to four years, the right to work and eventually a pathway to permanent residency.
The U visa is for victims of crime who are willing to help law enforcement in the prosecution of other criminals.
Four men have been charged in connection to the smuggling attempt, including the suspected driver, Homero Zamorano. The US citizen was allegedly high on meth and hospitalized himself as authorities say he tried to abandon the trailer and pass himself off as a smuggling victim.
The 53 immigrants who died have all been identified and their remains are being sent back to their countries of origin.
A flight from San Antonio landed in Mexico Thursday carrying some of the bodies, and other flights are planned for the coming days.
Of the immigrants who died 26 were citizens of Mexico, 21 from Guatemala and six were from Honduras, said the medical examiner in San Antonio.