HOUSTON - The deaths of ten undocumented immigrants at the hands of smugglers in San Antonio has gotten national attention and ignited a fresh debate about immigration.
The victims were found in a sweltering truck parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. Several others remain hospitalized.
However, immigration advocates say tragedies like that happen on a smaller scale every day.
“People are coming here out of desperation. It’s not so much that they think the streets are lined with gold, people are fleeing things,” said Cesar Espinosa, executive director of FIEL Houston.
On Sunday, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said sanctuary cities are why some believe smugglers or coyotes are their only option.
“Those who think sanctuary cities are a great idea, this is what happens. When people think they can come to America illegally, because there’s an oasis somewhere that they can live in, that just draws them to fall into the clutches of people who smuggle people across the border,” said Patrick.
He added, “This has to end. I don’t know how many more times we have to see this. Whether we pick up dead bodies in the brush, whether it’s a woman who has been sexually assaulted crossing the border, or whether it’s a horrific crime like today - when will the people of America stand up and understand we cannot be a magnet for people to come here illegally, because this is the end result?”
Patrick said the dangers of human smuggling are why the anti-sanctuary law, SB4, is so important.
However, others condemned Patrick’s comments Monday, saying the loss of life shouldn't be an opportunity to push a political agenda.
“People coming here do not understand what is a sanctuary city or not. Someone doesn’t get on the phone and say, ‘Hey you’ll be safe, you’ll have everything paid for for you,'" Espinosa said. "That doesn’t exist. Those conversations do not exist. They come because they know at least this is a place where they can be safe as human beings.”
State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez echoed those sentiments Monday.
“I hope that Lieutenant Governor Patrick puts people first in his future public statements. Because when 10 people from any background perish under such horrific circumstances, it is an occasion deserving of solemnity and respect, not self-indulgent cheerleading,” said Rodriguez in a statement.
Although they disagree about what the path to citizenship should look like, elected officials on both sides of the aisle called for legal immigration reform on the federal level in light of the deaths in San Antonio.
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