Mexican authorities said Monday that they discovered three cargo trucks packed with 124 parched and starving Central Americans — nearly half of them children.
The trucks were stopped Sunday after they sped through an immigration checkpoint in the southern state of Oaxaca, according to a statement from Mexico’s National Migration Institute. Inside, authorities found dozens of immigrants in dire condition.
The immigrants, who were bound for the United States, told authorities that they had not eaten in days and had been denied water by their smugglers.
They were provided medical attention and will be given the chance to apply for asylum to stay in Mexico, the statement said. Those who choose not to apply or who have their asylum claims denied will be deported to their home countries, it said.
The discovery was a reminder that tens of thousands of immigrants continue to try to reach the United States each month, despite President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy and increased enforcement in Mexico.
Nearly all of the immigrants traveling north were from Guatemala, a poor nation that has been roiled by crime and government corruption. Sixty of the immigrants were minors, including 15 who were traveling without an adult.
The number of immigrant families arrested at the border last month was 12,774, up from 9,247 in July, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The total number of immigrants apprehended at the border was 37,544, compared to 31,299 in July.
The Trump administration has described the increase as a crisis — and used it to argue for a border wall and tougher action — although the flow of migrants is down dramatically since its peak more than a decade ago. In fiscal year 2005, an average of 98,000 people were apprehended each month.
In June, Trump halted his “zero tolerance” policy, which called for the criminal prosecution of all immigrants who illegally enter the United States and sparked a backlash by separating more than 2,300 children from their parents.
With millions of dollars in funding from the United States, Mexico has stepped up enforcement of immigration laws in its territory, deporting more than half a million immigrants since 2014. At the same time, the number of immigrants seeking asylum in Mexico has risen sharply.
Human rights advocates have repeatedly accused Mexican immigration agents of rape, assaults and other human rights abuses against immigrants. Robberies, kidnappings and violence carried out by smugglers and drug cartels are also common. In one incident in 2010, 72 kidnapped migrants were killed by a cartel in northern Mexico.