(Daily Caller News Foundation) A number of the illegal immigrants who survived a human smuggling operation in which 10 people died inside a semi-trailer have offered to provide testimony in exchange for special visas that would give them legal status in the U.S.
Silvia Mintz, an attorney representing the Guatemalan Consulate in Houston, said she has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security about obtaining “U visas” for the migrants, Reuters reported Tuesday. The special visas are granted to crime victims who share information with investigators.
“If we are able to establish the case, we will go ahead and seek the U visa,” Mintz said.
Authorities in San Antonio discovered 39 illegal immigrants in or around a semi-trailer in a Walmart parking lot early Sunday morning. The migrants had been packed into the sweltering container after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border near Laredo, Texas.
By the time the truck arrived in San Antonio, eight of the migrants had died and dozens more were seriously injured. Two people later succumbed to heat-related injuries at the hospital.
Truck driver James Matthew Bradley Jr., who claims he was unaware there were people in the trailer, has been charged with one count of transporting illegal aliens.
There is precedent for granting U visas to illegal immigrants in exchange for testimony in human smuggling cases. DHS gave temporary visas to about 40 people during the investigation of what is considered the worst human smuggling tragedy in history, when 19 people died while being transported in a semi-trailer through Victoria, Texas, in 2003. The migrants’ testimony helped prosecutors charge more than a dozen people with conspiracy in the case, reports Reuters.
Shane Folden, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio, said it was too early to determine if the U visas are necessary to the investigation.
“There are a number of paths toward immigration relief for situations such as this,” he told Reuters, adding, “we are not at that point yet.”
U visas are valid for four years and provide a path to apply for legal permanent residence. Congress has limited the number of U visas to 10,000 a year.
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