President Joe Biden on Tuesday condemned human smuggling networks that “have no regard for the lives they endanger and exploit to make a profit” and defended his administration’s border policies following the deaths of at least 50 people in at a remote area outside San Antonio believed to be migrants who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.
“This incident underscores the need to go after the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and leading to far too many innocent deaths,” Biden said in a statement.
Sixteen other victims were taken to hospitals Monday after a tractor-trailer containing suspected migrants was found abandoned outside of San Antonio. Police said the deaths were the result of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
Republicans, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, blamed the Biden administration’s immigration policies for the accident amid a record number of illegal border crossing at the southern border.
“These deaths are on Biden,” Abbott said in a Tweet. “They are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”
Biden called “political grandstanding” around the tragedy “shameful.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed criticism while traveling with the president in Europe for conferences of the Group of Seven nations and NATO.
“The fact of the matter is the border is closed, which is in part why you see people trying to make this dangerous journey using smuggling networks,” she said, adding that the administration is focused on efforts to “hold these smugglers accountable.”
Biden has faced push from immigration activists, some Democrats as well as Republicans for failing to address the rise of migration on the U.S.-Mexico border.
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