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Alleged truck driver posed as victim after Texas migrant deaths

The alleged driver of a truck carrying dozens of migrants who died in the suffocating heat in Texas this week initially tried to pass himself off as a victim to escape authorities before he was arrested, U.S. and Mexican officials said on Wednesday.
The death toll in the incident rose to 53 as some migrants who had been trapped in the sweltering tractor-trailer died in the hospital, local officials said.
The truck was discovered on Monday in a desolate area near a highway in San Antonio, where temperatures that day soared as high as 103 Fahrenheit (39.4 Celsius).
Mexicans made up about half of those who perished in the worst human smuggling incident in recent U.S. history. Eleven people - including minors - remain hospitalized. In addition to 27 Mexicans, the victims also include 14 Hondurans, seven Guatemalans and two Salvadorans, according to a Mexican official. The nationality of some migrants in the truck remains unclear.
Most of the victims were men, with 13 women among the dead, the Bexar County medical examiner's office said.
Dozens of families have waited anxiously for news of missing loved ones who they fear may be dead.
A Mexican official and two U.S. officials, all speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the alleged driver as Homero Zamorano, 45, and an identification document seen by Reuters showed he had an address in Houston, Texas. Surveillance photographs published by Mexican immigration officials captured the truck driving through a security checkpoint in Laredo, Texas, at 2:50 p.m. CT (1950 GMT) on Monday.
U.S. authorities detained two Mexican men in addition to the driver who were caught leaving a house in San Antonio. On Wednesday, U.S. prosecutors were moving ahead with weapons charges against them.
A federal judge in San Antonio, Texas, ordered the suspects - identified as Juan Francisco D'Luna-Bilbao and Juan Claudio D'Luna-Mendez - detained until a preliminary hearing on Friday. Both men were charged on Tuesday with possessing firearms while residing in the United States illegally.
Francisco Garduno, head of Mexico's National Migration Institute, told a news conference on Wednesday that the tractor-trailer passed through two U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints in Texas, where it was captured on security cameras.
The first was in the town of Encinal, 40 miles (65 km) north of Laredo, and the second in Cotulla, 30 miles farther north.
Garduno later told reporters the trailer did not cross the U.S.-Mexico border with the migrants inside.
"The migrants were already on U.S. soil," before entering the truck, he said.
A source within Mexico's migration institute said, given smuggling dynamics, the migrants likely crossed the border in smaller groups before being concentrated in a smuggling stash house on the U.S. side and then squeezed into the tractor-trailer to be moved farther into the United States.
Between 6,000 and 6,800 trucks cross northbound through the Nuevo Laredo-Laredo international port of entry daily, according to Mexican customs data.
A spokesperson for Guatemala's foreign ministry, Karla Samayoa, said two Guatemalan girls who had been identified on social media as supposed victims of the San Antonio truck were not there, and had in fact drowned in the Rio Grande.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the Texas Department of Public Safety would start setting up highway checkpoints to investigate trucks driving across the state.


© Thomson Reuters 2022.
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