Jul 31, 2017
On June 23, the doors of a long-haul trailer were opened in a parking lot in San Antonio, Texas. Ten people had suffocated inside, and another 30 were taken to the hospital in such bad condition they could also die. The driver of the truck, who claimed he didn’t know human beings were the cargo in his trailer, was charged in federal court on June 24 with “knowingly transporting people who are in the country illegally.” If he is found guilty, he could face life in prison or even the death penalty.
The driver is certainly likely to be convicted of a crime. There are already 10 dead people. But behind the immediate question of guilt for these deaths lies a broader question of how dozens, even hundreds of people came to be pushed into unrefrigerated trucks in the states where the heat sometimes reaches more than 100 degrees.
What led these and so many other people to risk crossing the border illegally, paying thousands of dollars to do it, risking death on many parts of the journey, to find low-paid jobs in the United States?
The crime behind the truck driver’s and the numerous smugglers’ crimes is the crime of what U.S. corporations have done throughout the world, but first and foremost in Mexico and Central America. These countries have for 100 years been called the “backyard” of the U.S., which disguises what has been going on there. The economies of these countries are completely given over to what U.S. corporations demand, either to extract, to manufacture or to grow for profit – like Dole Fruit’s banana plantations or Mexico’s maquiladora areas.
This extreme drive for profit has created extreme unemployment and poverty throughout Mexico and Central America. Those conditions create the desperation of people willing to risk their lives to change their situation.
The policies of the U.S. government flow from what corporate America wants – under the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump administrations. The corporations want control of how many migrants cross the border, so the wall was built and the border came under armed guards. But still, U.S. corporations want some workers here from other countries, workers who are scared they could be deported and unable to protest low wages and terrible working conditions.
Until the power of the corporations is taken away, the laws will remain, as will the desperate people determined to risk their lives to cross the border.