Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the death toll in a truck packed with illegal immigrants rose to 53 on Wednesday, and he placed the blame squarely on one person — President Joe Biden.
During a press conference Wednesday in Eagle Pass, Abbott blasted Biden for not doing enough to staunch the flow of immigrants into the United States from and through Mexico.
n this aerial view, members of law enforcement investigate a tractor trailer on June 27, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas. According to reports, at least 46 people, who are believed migrant workers from Mexico, were found dead in an abandoned tractor trailer. Over a dozen victims were found alive, suffering from heat stroke and taken to local hospitals. (Photo by Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images)
Workers discovered the abandoned semi truck's trailer in San Antonio on Monday evening — initially, more than 40 people were dead inside. Officials said it remains unclear how many people were inside the truck.
"This is the deadliest migrant smuggling incident on U.S. soil," Abbott said. "It's on President Biden's watch."
Other Republicans parrotted Abbott's points, looking to peg the deaths on Biden and his border policies.
However, Biden pushed back against their assertions.
"Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy, and my Administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry," Biden said.
People place flowers and candles at a makeshift memorial where a tractor-trailer was discovered with migrants inside, outside San Antonio, Texas, on June 29, 2022. – The number of migrants who died in San Antonio, Texas after they were abandoned in a red-hot trailer rose to 53 on Wednesday, US immigration authorities said. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
Most of the dead were from Mexico, but there were citizens from Honduras and Guatemala among the dead. Mexico's Secretary for Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard said his nation is working with other countries, including the U.S., to bring those who organized the smuggling operation to justice.
The San Antonio Express-News reported that three men were in custody in connection with the incident, but the investigation is ongoing.
Abbott said Texas would implement additional truck inspections led by the Department of Public Safety.
"We are going to try to step up and play a role by the state to address this catastrophe that President Biden is responsible for," Abbott said. "Today, I'm announcing that Texas is going to add additional truck checkpoints."
Abbott's previous attempt to institute a truck checkpoint along the border resulted in miles-long backups of trucks coming into the U.S. from Mexico.
"DPS will begin targeting trucks like the one that was used where these people perished," Abbott said.
Investigators said they believe the truck was cloned to look like a delivery vehicle, and those inside were covered in seasonings to hide the smell from Border Patrol dogs.
Abbott has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to fund Operation Lone Star, an effort to beef up the Texas border. Despite that effort, Abbott said the flow of migrants is due to Biden's lax border enforcement, including not fully staffing the Border Patrol.