If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
A long time ago, the campaign to make car seatbelt use ubiquitous involved showing people pictures of what can happen to them if they are thrown through a windshield in a crash.
Similarly, today’s campaigns against drunk driving and texting while driving employ shocking images of crashed cars, testimonials from the bereaved, and simple messages reminding us all that one tiny and very easy choice can make the difference between life and death.
I think it’s time we put billboards up across South Texas demonstrating the gruesome results of failed attempts at human smuggling.
The people being lured into driving up from the border with a cargo of undocumented immigrants are offered large sums of money and are promised fast and easy work again and again, and a great number of them are mere teenagers. They come from cities far from here, for the most part, and only very few are actually South Texans. Why? Because down here we know that you cannot ever outrun the police and that if you try anything stupid, you are very likely to kill your passengers and yourself.
A case in point was a recent incident in La Salle County, in which a 17-year-old boy drove a minivan up the interstate with law enforcement in hot pursuit, then plowed off the road and crashed on an earthen embankment beside the railroad tracks. He left the van’s engine running and abandoned his passengers, one of whom was trying to climb out of the wreckage when the van tipped over and killed him by crushing his head.
That passenger was only 22 years old.
Much as popular internet videographer Gabriel Salazar was lured by some advertising message on his social media page, the teen driver was likely tempted into the smuggling attempt by the promise of fast cash. Perhaps he and his girlfriend, 18, who was also in the minivan, planned something special for themselves with the money. Perhaps they had bills to pay. Perhaps they wanted to help their parents with debt relief… who really knows?
Sometimes, the promise of easy money can be overwhelming. It gives people hope that they can make it out of an economic slump, that they can be saviors for their households… and of course it gives some people a promise of drug money to feed an increasingly expensive habit.
In any case, there are innocent victims in it all. Sometimes, and you might disagree but I will insist, the innocent may be the undocumented immigrants themselves. They have given up their life savings to an organization that bundles them into cars, trucks and vans – in one recent incident over 60 of them in a tanker truck – and cares not what happens to them after that. The money has been paid.
By luring teen drivers into smuggling, the criminal organizations responsible for the deadly surge in reckless endangerment and deadly endeavors has found a gullible and endless supply of children in Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas who were raised on video games where being chased by the cops is a rip-roaring riot and where ‘Game Over’ just means starting again from the beginning.
Well, it was ‘Game Over’ for Gabriel Salazar last summer when he did exactly what all the teen drivers have done as soon as the red and blue lights start flashing in the rear-view mirror. He accelerated.
They always accelerate. It’s all they know to do. It’s what they always did in the video game.
Salazar crashed his flashy sports car into a tree, and it caught fire. He and his three passengers – all of them undocumented immigrants – burned to death in the ensuing inferno.
The boy whose van crushed one of his passengers had no idea until later that he was directly responsible for that man’s death.
You only have to look at the arrest logs we print in this newspaper to see how many people have been tempted to come down here to transport undocumented immigrants. If they’re in jail, they can consider themselves lucky to be alive.
For the rest, it’s game over.
We have to do more to stop the killing. We don’t have time to decide who’s innocent and who’s not. The killing has to stop.
Put up the billboards. Send the message on any social media platform you can find. Do it more often and do it more effectively than the criminal gangs who are organizing the slaughter.
Do it now.
Every hour that you wait, another innocent will die.