Iran’s top human rights official says migrants are victims of the United States’ media propaganda, amid reports that dozens of South American asylum seekers were found dead in a truck in sweltering heat en route to the US state of Texas earlier this week.
Kazem Gharibabadi, secretary of Iran's High Council for Human Rights and the Judiciary chief’s deputy for international affairs, made the remark in a post on his Twitter account after a truck, carrying migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, was discovered abandoned on Monday in a desolate area near a highway on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, about 250 km north of the US-Mexico border.
The death toll from the tragedy hit 53 on Wednesday as local authorities reported two more migrants, initially hospitalized over their ordeal inside a suffocatingly hot tractor-trailer, had lost their lives.
“Encouraged by the US-orchestrated media hype to find a non-existent better life, the now-dead migrants take perilous journeys to find one in the imaginary land of opportunities, but to no avail,” Gharibabadi wrote on Thursday.
Encouraged by the U.S.-orchestrated media hype to find a non-existent better life, the now-dead migrants take perilous journeys to find one in the imaginary land of opportunities, but to no avail. #The_Waste_Landhttps://t.co/NQi8tpXTCT— Gharibabadi (@Gharibabadi) June 30, 2022
The Texan city of San Antonio on Wednesday was the scene of a candlelight vigil accompanied by songs of grief and words of rage in commemoration of the dead migrants in the tragic incident.
"Who cares if I am American or Mexican, I'm human," cried a young woman named Wanda. "I feel, I speak, I cry, I'm angry...Are you all angry? Then be angry. Show them."
"We have a broken system of immigration, and people are forced to make very tragic decisions. And this is unacceptable," added Pastor Gavin Rogers. "This is a call to action."
Carlos Eduardo Espina, 23-year-old from Uruguay, criticized the US immigration policy as “cruel,” saying it should be more humanitarian and allow for more entry visas each year.
"This is terrible, and breaks my heart," said Espina. "But every day people are drowning in the river, every day people are dying in the desert. Death is the norm in immigration in the United States."
The Department of Homeland Security announced on Tuesday that it had opened a criminal investigation into the migrants’ deaths in the back of the tractor-trailer in Texas, in what authorities suspect was part of a human-smuggling operation.
Media reports said the suspected driver of the truck and an accused conspirator were charged in US federal court with human trafficking offenses. If convicted, each man will face a maximum sentence of life in prison, or possibly the death penalty.
The incident, one of the deadliest human trafficking tragedies along the US-Mexico border in recent history, served as yet another reminder of the enormous risks asylum seekers take in search of a better life and also how US officials struggle to find a right strategy for patrolling the southern border, but seemingly to no avail.
US President Joe Biden, in Europe this week for international summits, said the deaths were "horrifying and heartbreaking."
The Wall Street Journal said the latest tragedy is "another sign that America lacks a humane, sensible immigration policy."
Analysts say clamping down on migrants has driven them to take riskier routes to cross the US border without being detected, or put themselves in the hands of human traffickers who promise them safe passage for a price.
A federal judge has kept in place a Trump-era policy that denies many migrants a chance to seek asylum on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The UN migration agency has reported that nearly 3,000 people went missing or died trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States since 2014.