In what appears to be the worst episode in recent times of migrant deaths associated with dangerous border crossings into the U.S., the bodies of at least 53 people were recovered from an abandoned tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas. Reports suggested that the migrants, hailing from Mexico, the Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, died from the extreme temperatures inside the truck, amidst a lethal heat wave. The grim episode highlights yet again the perils faced by those seeking asylum or better economic prospects in the U.S., who come up against the country’s immigration policies, which are yet very much a work-in-progress. On the one hand, the latest crisis underscores the serious lacunae in border policy enforcement. Despite the searing summer, border crossings in this region have remained stubbornly high over the past two years. In May 2020, the U.S. Border Patrol encountered 23,237 migrants, whereas in May 2022, that number was 2,39,146 — said to be more than in any single month in the past three years. Even worse, Mexican officials have confirmed that the truck passed through a federal immigration checkpoint within the territory of the U.S. and yet was not inspected. With approximately 20,000 trucks passing through the commercial corridor from Laredo to San Antonio every day, and even more across U.S.-Mexico crossing routes overall, there is a woeful shortage of manpower and surveillance systems.
Nevertheless, it is the bigger questions behind cross-border migration into the U.S. and its fallout, as shown above, that are troubling. Democrats and Republicans have locked horns over comprehensive immigration reform in a multitude of negotiations and across hundreds of bills proposed in Congress. Yet there is a fundamental unwillingness to find bipartisan solutions for immigration policy, in the way that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act came out of a collaborative effort and now offers a glimmer of hope towards containing gun violence. While Democrats have dug in their heels on subjects such as a path to citizenship for law-abiding undocumented workers in the U.S. who meet certain conditions, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Republicans have tended to focus more on keeping undocumented migrants out at the border. The problem with their refusing to hammer out compromise solutions is that the resultant failure to evolve a well-funded yet enlightened immigration policy leads to avoidable deaths of the kind seen in San Antonio. Whatever they cede or do not cede politically to liberals, conservatives must realise that there is no resisting the “melting pot” effect coterminous with the U.S.’s social and economic progress, and for that process to work smoothly, the U.S. must rationally and humanely manage the inflow of migrants across its southern border.