Texas human smuggling deaths bring up concerns in Jacksonville

Human smuggling cases, like the one that killed 53 people in Texas, are happening in many areas of the U.S., including in Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILE, Fla. – Human smuggling cases, like the one that killed 53 people in Texas, are happening in many areas of the U.S. including in Jacksonville.

The migrants were trapped in a semi-tractor trailer near San Antonio, Texas, Monday and died from heat strokes and exhaustion.

It’s being called one of the worst cases of human smuggling in U.S. history.

“These individuals did not deserve this.” Jacksonville Immigration Attorney, Andrea Reyes, says human smuggling is nothing new and has been a lucrative business involving cartels and smuggling networks.

Reyes said leaving home is the only option for some people trying to escape poverty, violence and no health care. “All of that combined and you have individuals who can’t support and sustain a family, so what do they have to do? They have to leave because staying means dying.”

It was back in May when a trooper was traveling east on I-10. They saw an SUV driving below the speed limit. It had dark tinted windows and a temporary license plate with no state listed.

The driver – Urias Martinez – was in the country illegally. There were seven people in the SUV with him.

JSO booking photo for Urias Martinez Martinez.

The arrest report says Martinez‘s uncle transported them from Arizona to Atlanta, Georgia. Martinez was paid $3,000 to take them from Atlanta to Jacksonville. The report says each passenger paid Martinez $400 for the ride as well.

While their conditions were safer than what happened in San Antonio – Reyes said migrants know it’s a dangerous road ahead. She says the U.S. has been working to identify coyotes like Martinez and disrupt human smuggling networks.

She says America can benefit from immigrants if the correct policies are put in place.

“Temporary visas serve the interest of the United States,” Reyes said. “Right now we have rising issues, all kinds of issues from supply chain and so if we were able to bring over individuals that are going to help fill the gap of the services that we’re having trouble filling right now, like agriculture logistics and food production, we’re going to have a better system where individuals can come to the United States, do their job, and go back home and have stability.”

Reyes says immigration can be good for the economy and help alleviate a lot of migration – and the chronic problem of smuggling.

About the Author:

A Florida-born, Emmy Award winning journalist and proud NC A&T SU grad