A van transporting 29 migrants got into a fatal collision on a remote Texas highway Wednesday, killing at least ten people.
Overpacked with passengers, the van crashed into a pole and a stop sign after the driver lost control of the vehicle at high speed, Sergeant Nathan Brandley of the Texas Department of Public Safety told the Associated Press. He added that the maximum capacity in the van was supposed to be 15.
In addition to the ten who perished in the accident including the driver, all remaining 20 people in the van, believed to be undocumented migrants, suffered injuries ranging from serious to life-threatening, the sheriff informed AP. It is still unclear who owned and operated the van or if it was stolen, a common occurrence for migrant smuggling runs.
The incident comes after Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order outlawing the transportation of migrants who pose COVID risk within the Texas interior. While partially designed as a public health measure to curb transmission of the virus exacerbated by illegal immigration, Abbott’s directive also focuses on national security, aiming to prevent trucks packed with migrants from being smuggled across the border and into Texas communities.
The order authorized the Texas Department of Public Safety to stop any vehicle suspected of carrying migrants that may be infectious with COVID and to reroute them back to a point of origin or a port of entry. Of the massive influx of migrants pouring into Texas, many of them have tested positive for the disease. Multiple media outlets have reported busloads of migrants being dropped off and released at locations in Texas and around the country.
Some migrants pay criminals large sums of money in exchange for safe passage into the United States via a vehicle rather than by foot. The journey can still be perilous given the often reckless driving and lack of experience of those recruited to smuggle them across, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., director of the Center for Law & Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso, told the Dallas Morning News that these drivers can come from inland Texas, towns straddling the border, or even Latin America. It’s a frightening enterprise for them, too, as “They’re told, ‘If you’re caught, it’ll go bad for you,’” Manjarrez added.