San Antonio, in the front row of the immigrant wave in South America

Dozens of immigrants wait outside a house in downtown San Antonio, Texas. Mostly young, but some women, sometimes with children, are present in the queue. They spent hours after hours seeking refuge from the rain, and even after dusk they hoped for a meal and a roof for the night.

Before arriving, they had to face a dangerous, even deadly journey. On Monday, an overheated and overloaded truck was found in this Texas town: among its passengers, 53 died, making it one of the worst tragedies in U.S. immigration.

Thousands of people cross the border into Mexico every year via San Antonio, about 240 kilometers away. A first step before assembling in other American cities in search of a better future.

Edwin Sanchez is in the front row. He left his hometown of Venezuela on May 12, arrived in San Antonio 5 days ago and hopes to move to New York soon, where an acquaintance has promised to give him a job.

“We’re hoping for a little help. With a day or two of work, I’ll be able to pay for the ticket,” he said.

The 42-year-old entered the United States through a border crossing despite “Title 42”, a measure inherited from the Trump era that allows any immigrant without a visa to deport asylum seekers without a visa. -19 epidemic.

The implementation of this measure is unequal: it concerns some Venezuelan and Cuban, more Mexican and Central American immigrants.

No matter how they cross the border, if they are coming from northeastern Mexico, they are likely to pass through the city of San Antonio, home to about 1.5 million people.

– “The perfect place for the passage” –

There’s an airport, a bus station and a lot of connections to the rest of the country, explains Roger Enriquez, professor of criminology at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“It’s at the junction of the main highways: the I-10, which connects California to Florida, and the I-35, which runs from Laredo on the southern border to Minnesota in the north. It’s a good place to go.”

Unfortunately this position also attracts smugglers, who take advantage of the fact that 63% of Hispanic residents are unnoticed, the professor reports.

Faced with the daily influx of needy migrants, several associations are coming together to help them. Corazón Ministries, which runs the house in the city center, is one of them.

The shelter is open daily from 7:00 pm to 8:00 am the next day and offers immigrants a dinner and a bed, its director Monica Sosa said.

Near it, shortly before the opening, some volunteers set up beds stamped with the logo of the American Red Cross.

The place is supposed to have about 150 people, more systematically, sometimes up to 400, and many fall asleep on the ground or in a nearby park.

“Resources are very limited, we need more help,” said Monica Sosa

The association, funded by subsidies, helps some immigrants pay for their transport tickets, but wants to be able to do more.

– Profitable business of smugglers –

Twenty-year-old Honduran Austin Hernandez arrived four days ago and still can’t sleep in the hostel.

In the queue, he apologizes for the lack of help, but is not disappointed to reach his destination, Austin, just 130km away.

“The path was very difficult. I was attacked, I begged for food on the street, without success. It was cold, it was raining, I lay outside.”

“I’ve had to pay a lot of money for all this and I have no support to get where I’m going,” said the young man, who crossed the Rio Grande into the United States to escape the patrol.

Although he did not take refuge in the smugglers, frustration and strict border controls are forcing some immigrants to give their lives into the hands of these people.

The discovery of the 53 people who died on Monday is a sad reminder of the risks of this lucrative journey for the cartels.

“It is estimated that smugglers earn between ,000 8,000 and 10,000 per person, and they can put 100 people in a truck, which is one million in profit,” Professor Enriquez explained.

“I am amazed that there is no more tragedy in terms of the dangers and risks that these people take,” he concluded.

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