Spanish-language outlet Plaza Pública reports that the Indigenous parents of one of the children who died in the horrific human smuggling tragedy in San Antonio, Texas, last month have formally identified his body.
The Texas Tribune said in a translation of Plaza Pública’s report that Manuel Jesús Tulul and Magdalena Tepaz Tziac traveled via bus from their village to Guatemala’s capital to view a photo of one of the 53 victims. Tulul said it was 14-year-old Juan Wilmer (his age had initially been reported as 13). “His wife clutched her chest and sobbed, unable to speak at all,” the report continued.
RELATED STORY: San Antonio semi-truck victims sought to help sick loved ones, reunite with family
Plaza Pública said that Maria Sipac had traveled with Tulul and Tepaz Tziac. Her son, 13-year-old Pascual Melvin Guachiac Sipac, also died in the tragedy. Sipac “still has his last message to her on her phone: ‘Mom, today they are taking me in a trailer,’” The Washington Post reported last month. Pascual had been seeking to reunite with his dad in the U.S., the report said.
It is hopefully of some comfort during this heart-wrenching time that the families didn’t have to make the trek to the capital alone. The Texas Tribune said in the translated report that nearly two dozen villagers made the five-hour bus ride with them. “All pooled their resources to pay for the journey.” Tzucubal deputy mayor Alonzo Tepac said in the report that “[t]he thing is, we are like family, we are here to help and support.”
While officials said last week it could have possibly taken weeks to identify all 53 victims, 47 of the victims have been “conclusively identified,” NBC News reports. “Of them, 22 were from Mexico, 19 from Guatemala, and six from Honduras. Their ages range from 13 to 55, according to the medical examiner's office.”
Juan Wilmer and Pascual Melvin were not the only children to perish. Yovani Valencia Olivares and Misael Olivares Monterde, both from Mexico, were 16. Yovani’s brother, 19-year-old Jair, also died in the tragedy. Their mother had told The Washington Post at the time that she sold her house to raise the $10,000 that the smuggler was demanding to transport her two sons to the U.S. “We don’t know anything about them. The uncertainty is killing us,” she had said in that report. “I have no tears left.”
More than 100 organizations have urged the Department of Homeland Security to shield the survivors of this tragedy, including deportation protections and allowing them to apply for certain visas that are made available to victims of crime. Fears that officials may quickly deport survivors after such a traumatic and criminal ordeal are not unfounded. “In previous mass casualty incidents, victims and witnesses have ended up detained and deported within hours after being released from the hospital,” the organizations said.
Four people have been charged in this incident, “the single deadliest migrant smuggling case in U.S. history, according to a Homeland Security official,” The Texas Tribune reported. It’s unclear so far if any survivors will be called as part of the case.
It is not the first time the Nahualá municipality has reeled from migrant tragedies; sisters Karla and Griselda Carac drowned at the border. “According to the country’s Secretariat of Planning and Programming of the Presidency, Nahualá reports that more than 2,500 of its inhabitants have emigrated to North America,” The Texas Tribune reported, driven by poverty and nearby violence.
San Antonio survivors must be allowed to apply for certain visas available to victims, groups say
Rising number of migrants are dying during desperate attempts to reach U.S.
Tragic migrant deaths are nothing but political fodder for despicable Greg Abbott