At least three migrants found dead in a trailer in San Antonio paid smugglers extra to ensure their safety and comfort, according to a Reuters report.
SAN ANTONIO – Migrants traveling through San Antonio in June died in a hot trailer despite paying smugglers extra money for ‘VIP travel’ protection, relatives say.
Of the 53 victims, at least three guides were paid to ensure safety and comfort on the trip through Mexico. However, they did not survive the deadliest human smuggling event in recorded American history.
Reuters initially identified the three victims.
Pablo Ortega’s family sold a small house to afford extra benefits for the 20-year-old. He needed a good job to support his girlfriend, who was pregnant with the couple’s son.
After crossing the border, Pablo intended to be reunited with his mother in Florida. He would find a job and send his earnings back to Mexico.
“He felt the need to leave to be able to give the best to his son and his wife,” Pablo’s sister, Rosa Ortega, told KENS 5 in Spanish via Facebook Messenger.
The siblings communicated by text on almost every part of Pablo’s journey. He sent videos to Roza, illustrating the benefits of ‘VIP travel’.
Pablo and other expats slept in beds in private residences, stocked with pizza and beer. In the evening they played video games and watched TV.
The trip cost Ortega’s family $13,000.
“He paid it because he was told it was safe there and there weren’t many dangers to cross,” Rosa Ortega said. “It was something 100 percent safe for everybody.”
More smugglers are offering special travel accommodations for a premium, said Elmer Romero, an educator for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
“They use buses and private cars. They stay in a hotel or a house – very nice, some of them,” he added. “(They may also have) the opportunity to try again if they are arrested along the way.”
Romero said smugglers call the deal “Paquete de translado completa,” or complete transfer package. Traffickers have offered these benefits for at least 20 years, although it has recently become more common.
It’s a kind of investment, Romero explains, since the economic security of entire families can depend on a relative’s safe arrival in the United States.
“Families are willing to sell everything to get credit and pay for a safer ride for the person,” Romero said. “They want to invest in this person for a better future.”
Migrants who work with Romero have mostly told him that smugglers honor their promises in Mexico, he said.
“But (smugglers) lose control when they are at the border,” he said.
State smugglers mix migrants who paid for the ‘VIP trip’ with migrants who did not. Expensive travel packages often end up in 18-wheel trailers, Romero said.
But some migrants do not realize that they will have to risk the big platform journey when they start the journey.
Pablo Ortega didn’t initially expect to ride on a big platform, his sister said. He believed he would travel to his destination in a private vehicle.
After Pablo crossed the Rio Grande, he told Rosa that he was worried about the number of people arriving at the state safe house. The traffickers then told them they would spend three hours in a trailer before private vehicles would pick up the migrants, Rosa said.
“I told him to move forward in the trailer so he wouldn’t drown,” she added.
Rosa buried Pablo in Mexico in July.
“I would like to see my brother alive again,” she said. “All his plans and dreams that should have been fulfilled did not come true.”
She said she is “pretty much getting used to” the pain left by his absence.
Romero smiled that ‘VIP’ should actually be ‘Vulnerable High Paying Immigrant’.
“They don’t guarantee anything,” he said. “This ‘VIP’… is a lie”.