Two migrants were found dead and at least 10 were taken to the hospital Friday, March 24, after police in South Texas received a 911 call that they were “suffocating” inside a train car near the U.S.-Mexico border, according to police reports.
A press release from the Uvalde Police Department said that U.S. Border Patrol was informed of the emergency call and stopped the train 2-3 miles east of Knippa, Texas. When authorities pried open the container, they found the two deceased migrants and several others needing medical attention.
A statement shared via the San Antonio Archdiocese social media said that San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller requested prayers for the 15 migrants that had been trapped in the train car.
Father Matthew De Leon, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Sabinal and St. Joseph Church in Knippa, Texas, was on-site at the scene of the tragedy, the archdiocesan statement said. He “worked with law enforcement officials to provide pastoral care to the victims, blessing them and also reciting Prayers for the Dead.”
Uvalde police said that a segment of U.S. Highway 90 was blocked, so medical helicopters could land and treat those injured, 10 of which were flown to hospitals.
“Several of the victims were airlifted to University Hospital in San Antonio in critical condition, and the archbishop was able to see them there,” the archdiocesan statement said. “Others in serious condition were sent to CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Westover Hills and Methodist Hospital, as well as Medina Regional Hospital in Hondo.”
The archdiocese’s Catholic Charities went to area hospitals receiving victims to offer services.
Uvalde police’s statement said that the Union Pacific railroad was leading the investigation. Texas Public Radio reported that ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) said it was investigating the possibility of human smuggling but wouldn’t provide any more details.
“We need to be addressing what’s going on here in South Texas,” Uvalde’s mayor, Don McLaughlin Jr., told The New York Times. “It’s a tragedy that human lives are being lost — two lives that did not have to be lost. This happens weekly down here — not Uvalde, but the South Texas area.”
The site where the train was stopped was near Knippa, a small town more than 70 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. It is about 75 miles west of downtown San Antonio and 10 miles northeast of Uvalde.
“It’s sad to see that so many undocumented immigrants were found in this condition, and two of them lost their lives,” Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez told local new station KSAT. “It’s heartbreaking.”
According to media reports, that segment of Highway 90 between the border town of Del Rio and San Antonio has become a major human trafficking route.
Last June, 53 migrants died after being left trapped inside a sweltering trailer truck in San Antonio that was smuggling them into the country.
In a YouTube video posted after that tragedy, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth and Archbishop García-Siller, on behalf of the Texas Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops, decried the “senseless loss of life” and reminded Catholics “to never forget the sacredness of all human life in light of all this.”
“The exploitation of the poor and in particular of migrants who flee dramatic situations in search of opportunities and hope is particularly grave,” said Archbishop García-Siller in the video.