The Post ed­i­to­rial: Ex­pect hu­man traf­fick­ing and tragic con­se­quences to con­tinue un­der cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion laws.

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

The tableau of mis­ery in­side a trac­tor-trailer packed with un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants at a Wal­mart park­ing lot in San An­to­nio last week­end was be­yond hor­rific. At one point, be­fore dozens of the mi­grants were off­loaded by hu­man traf­fick­ers, more than 100 peo­ple — pos­si­bly many more — were crammed into the trailer’s light­less, nearly air­less in­te­rior, bak­ing in the south Texas sum­mer heat and tak­ing turns to suck air through a hole in the ve­hi­cle’s side. By the time po­lice were sum­moned, early Sun­day, eight peo­ple lay dead in­side the trailer; two more died in the hos­pi­tal in the en­su­ing 24 hours. Many oth­ers, hav­ing suc­cumbed to heat­stroke and re­lated af­flic­tions, suf­fered griev­ous in­juries.

This unimag­in­able spec­ta­cle of suf­fer­ing was the prod­uct of des­per­a­tion on the part of the im­mi­grants for bet­ter eco­nomic cir­cum­stances and cal­lous crim­i­nal­ity on the part of traf­fick­ers. The car­nage in the Wal­mart park­ing lot was nei­ther the first nor even the worst such in­ci­dent. In 2003, 19 un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, in­clud­ing a 7-year-old boy and a 91-year-old man, were found dead from heat and as­phyx­i­a­tion in the back of a truck in Vic­to­ria, Texas.

It is to be hoped that state and fed­eral au­thor­i­ties will sweep up the traf­fick­ers re­spon­si­ble for this ou­trage in San An­to­nio and that sen­tences will be harsh. (The truck driver, James Matthew Brad- ley Jr. of Florida, is in cus­tody. He de­nies hav­ing known that peo­ple were locked in the truck be­fore ar­riv­ing at the Wal­mart and hear­ing bang­ing and shak­ing in the trailer, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint filed in fed­eral court.)

The mag­netic pull of the U.S. econ­omy and its de­mand for lowwage, low-skilled la­bor has for decades at­tracted poverty-stricken work­ers from south of the bor­der will­ing to take in­or­di­nate risks and en­ter into bar­gains with un­scrupu­lous smug­glers.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, so far at least, has man­aged to drive down the num­ber of il­le­gal bor­der crossers, partly by tough­en­ing ac­tual en­force­ment but mainly by jaw­bon­ing — es­tab­lish­ing an in­hos­pitable po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. Un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, said Thomas Ho­man, act­ing di­rec­tor of Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, “should be afraid.”

But not all have been or will be dis­suaded. In Texas in just the first week of this month, Bor­der Pa­trol agents came upon 72 il­le­gal im­mi­grants locked in­side a semi-trailer, un­able to es­cape. Nine­teen more, in two sep­a­rate in­ci­dents, were spot­ted lost in ranch­lands in sear­ing heat. And 10 oth­ers were found in­side a trac­tor-trailer at an in­spec­tion check­point.

Those un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants were the lucky ones, dis­cov­ered in good health. With­out an over­haul of the na­tion’s dys­func­tional im­mi­gra­tion laws, don’t ex­pect il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion or hu­man traf­fick­ing or fur­ther ter­ri­ble tragedies to end any­time soon.

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