Immigrant rights activists called the deaths of immigrants found in a trailer over the weekend "a senseless tragedy" at Sunday night's candlelight vigil honoring the victims.
RAICES community organizer Barbie Hurtado addressed about 100 people in front of San Fernando Cathedral. She criticized the San Antonio Police Department for calling in Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE.
“The survivors were criminalized instead of being treated like humans, like people who just went through a horrible horrible tragedy. They are likely to be deported,” she said.
San Antonio District 4 City Council member Rey Saldana said it wasn’t clear who called ICE and that is being looked into.
“SAPD is trained in a number of instances in how to take care of instances where we believe human trafficking is occurring. In this case, it’s a collaboration with a number of different agencies. We need to know that – I think the community needs to know – everybody who is advocating for the human aspect of the people involved is that these are folks who were treated as victims,” Saldana said.
Mexican Consul General in San Antonio Reyna Torres joined the vigil. She said Mexican citizens are among the survivors and those who died in the trailer.
“We are going to be helping the families who want to send their the bodies of the deceased to Mexico. We are also providing legal assistance to those who want to follow up a case here in the U.S,” Torres said.
She said the Mexican government is calling for a full investigation and prosecution of those behind the human smuggling ring.
Calling the trailer deaths a reminder of the human cost of a broken immigration system, Congressman Joaquin Castro joined a candle light vigil Sunday night.
The San Antonio Democrat said that now is not the time to get political, but noted how Congress' missed opportunity to pass immigration reform could have prevented tragedies like this.
“Congress was close to doing something about that a few years ago. The United States Senate passed a bill and the Speaker of the House wouldn’t put it up for a vote, even though there were the votes to pass it. We got to get back to a place where we can work together.” he said.
Vigil attendees called on Homeland Security to adopt more humane methods of border enforcement.