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The deaths of migrants found in San Antonio are the latest human smuggling tragedy, but it won’t be the last

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — The gruesome discovery Monday night on a remote street in southwest San Antonio is just the latest human smuggling tragedy.

Few people can understand the risk and Juan Esteban Montoya is one of them.

The 23-year-old met with ABC13 at his law office near NRG Park on Tuesday afternoon. He said the images from San Antonio of the semi-truck on which dozens of bodies were found were difficult for him to look at.

Juan Esteban Montoya’s trip from Colombia to the United States in January was not in the back seat of an 18-wheeler, but by boat. He is the sole survivor when the boat capsized off the Florida coast. A photo showed him clinging to the ship all by himself after four days at sea. About 40 people died, including his younger sister, Maria Camila Montoya.

“It was very painful to see my sister die,” he said through his attorney, Naimeh Salem, who translated.

The siblings were due to see their mother in Houston. It took them a year to save $13,000 to pay the smugglers. They took a boat from the Bahamas because they were told it was safer, he said.

“It happens more often than people know,” Salem translated for Montoya. “These big events that people know, but every day someone dies in the desert or in the water because the smugglers don’t have a heart (smugglers) just take advantage of them.”

According to the United Nations, at least 650 people died crossing the US-Mexico border in 2021.

And 19 years ago, 19 people died locked in a sweltering trailer on the roadside in Victoria, while 51 others survived. Mary Rose Garcia, who worked in an emergency room in Victoria, witnessed the injured who survived.

“You don’t forget something like that. You just don’t do that,” Garcia told ABC13. “They just want to come here and have a better life. Some of them make it and some don’t. It is sad but true.”

Juan Esteban Montoya, who is hoping for legal status, he and his sister knew the risk, but a better life was worth it. Despite the heartache, he says the future still looks bright.

To learn more about this story, follow Jessica Willey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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https://abc13.com/san-antonio-dead-migrants-found-in-tractor-trailer-human-smuggling/12002447/ The deaths of migrants found in San Antonio are the latest human smuggling tragedy, but it won’t be the last

Dais Johnston

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