Leaders call for changes in immigration system after deadly smuggling case

HOUSTON – On Monday, local and state organizations pushed for change in the immigration system after ten people died in a human smuggling case in San Antonio.

It hits close to home for undocumented immigrants and their families in Houston.

“The reason people are coming, it’s not because in search of this American dream or money, but rather escaping from either bad economic situations or bad safety issues that are happening,” said Cesar Espinoza, executive director of FIEL.

Police found 38 undocumented immigrants inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio Sunday morning. As of Monday, 10 had died.

"It's a wake up call in the sense this has brought a lot of publicity to the issue but these kinds of crimes of human trafficking and smuggling happen everyday," said Kerry Ward, associate professor of history at Rice University.

An undocumented immigrant himself, Espinoza sent a strong warning to families.

“Tell your family members not to risk their lives and figure out if there’s any way legally of coming here. We always encourage that,” said Espinoza.

He, along with others, hopes there can be change.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee released a statement that read, “As a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee and one who has worked tirelessly on the issues of human trafficking and illegal smuggling, it breaks my heart to learn of the tragic deaths in San Antonio this weekend. I offer my deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims.

"According to authorities, the victims were undocumented immigrants who died after being crammed into a hot semi-trailer and transported across the southern border.

"These horrific deaths highlight the need for comprehensive immigration reform and an easing of the current administration’s arcane and harsh policies that do not advance American values.

"We must also crack down on human trafficking and smuggling and bring those individuals at the core of this tragedy to justice.”

LULAC Texas State Director Lupe Torres released a statement that read, “We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic deaths of innocent immigrant people falling prey to human traffickers whose disregard for human life and a profit motive left (the victims) to suffer horrendous deaths.

"Our prayers are with the families of these victims, who lost their lives desperately looking for a better life in this country. Many are fleeing persecution and dire poverty.

"We stand in solidarity, urging our lawmakers for a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system to help avert another sad tragedy."

Texas LULAC will work with other immigrant advocacy agencies and churches to help the surviving victims in San Antonio with their needs.

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