'No one should have to die to come to America': Lawmakers react to apparent immigrant smuggling case

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick believes this is a prime example of why Texas needs to do away with sanctuary cities.

AUSTIN - Texas lawmakers are reacting to the news after authorities discovered dozens of people stuffed into the back of a big-rig. So far, nine people are confirmed dead. San Antonio police suspect it was a human smuggling operation.

KVUE sat down with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to get his take on the situation. Patrick believes this is a prime example of why Texas needs to do away with sanctuary cities. The hope of coming to a 'sanctuary city' is leading people into dire situations with human traffickers.

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"It's a humanitarian crisis -- and in my view, murder when you stuff people when it's 100 degrees or more in the back of a truck," explained Patrick. "And who knows how long they were in that truck. I've always said -- I've said this for years: no one should have to die to come to America. We need legal immigration reform. That's up to both parties in Washington -- it has been for a long time -- so that people can come here in dignity. We need to control who comes here. But those who come here, we want them to come here in dignity -- not have to live in the shadows -- and embrace our country."

Patrick is looking to the federal government to overhaul immigration in America. It's something both Republican and Democrat-majority administrations have tried and failed at. Patrick envisions a simpler system to get people in dangerous situations, into the United States quicker.

"We need to streamline the opportunity to come to America legally," he added. "Citizenship may take longer, but you should be able to come here in a reasonable amount of time, with background checks and with jobs waiting for you. Maybe a family that can take you in."

Patrick also told KVUE if Congress can implement a successful immigration system, he believes most illegal immigration would disappear. He said 'sanctuary cities' undermine that effort, empowering smugglers to take advantage of those who are desperate.

State Senator Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) also wants to see comprehensive immigration reform in America. He spoke about the Bracero program of the 1950s, which allowed migrant workers to come into the country for day labor.

"And because they knew they could go and come back, because of this work program, they didn't look for desperate ways to get here at any cost -- at any price," explained Menendez. "They knew there was a way, a legal way, to come into the country, do some work, and leave... We're the wealthiest, most free country in the world. And we're surrounded by places that need help. And I think we could do a better job of being better neighbors."

Senator Menendez believes along with comprehensive reform, it's important to not make people who already live here, victims as well. He also says he would like to see harsher penalties for human traffickers to fight the problem.
 

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On the other side, District 51 Rep. Eddie Rodriguez,  who is part of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, believes politics shouldn't be the first thing looked at in a situation like this.

"I know that people will talk about immigration and policy in a partisan and political way. I don't really think that that helps the situation at this particular moment. It's just so heartbreaking. It really illustrates in a very, very drastic way people that are coming to this country -- people who lost their lives -- because they're desperate to come here,” he said.

According to ABC News, in this month alone, Border Patrol has reported at least four truck seizures in and around Laredo. Two weeks ago, agents found over 70 people from Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala and El Salvador, all crammed into a truck with no way out.

And it's not just U.S. authorities dealing with these issues, law enforcement in Mexico are seeing it too. Last year, 110 people were found trapped inside a truck after it crashed while speeding in the state of Veracruz. 

It's the kind of reality Rodriguez feels needs to change, calling for justice for San Antonio's victims.

“And you have some bad actors who tried to bring them here and then leave them in appalling conditions and treated like less than human. We really have to think of tragedies like this from a very human perspective,” Rodriguez added.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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