Local man talks about coming illegally to U.S. after smuggling deaths

A former immigrant talks about the dangers of crossing the border.

The gruesome discovery in San Antonio left many of you shocked. Over a hundred people were crammed in an 18-wheeler over the weekend.

Ten have died and more than a dozen are still in the hospital.

Ramon Valdivia lives in Sarasota. He knows firsthand the pain these illegal immigrants went through.

Twenty years ago, he and his eldest daughter went through an underground tunnel from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas.

No food or water. Temperatures reached triple digits.

“You can lose your life and that's it,” says Valdivia.

He knows many people, including family, who came to America stuffed in the back of a tractor-trailer.

All to get a taste of the American dream.

“People die. Nobody knows what's going to happen. It's sad, it's real sad,” he says.

It's not just surviving the trip -- it's surviving the mental pain these undocumented immigrants go through.

“I heard many things that happen to ladies. Not just ladies but men too. It's just not good,” he says.

Valdivia says these "coyotes" often sexually assault women.

“The coyote, you never see the face. You see many people, but the coyote, you never see the face,” he says.

A coyote is often paid big bucks to smuggle undocumented immigrants into the U-S.


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says these criminals make more than $6.5 billion a year getting millions of men and women into our country.

Most immigrants pay around $2,000. Others shell out more than $10,000 if they have to cross multiple borders.

Often associated with Mexican drug cartels, coyotes have no regard for human life.

Ramon says his friend was faced with the tough decision to leave someone behind while crossing the desert.

“The old guy says, 'I can't walk anymore in the desert.' The coyote comes and says, 'Youu want to stay with him or you want to live?,” he says.

Valdivia now owns a landscaping business. He says that torture he went through was worth it, but now it's different. He feels more people are dying.
 
“It's not easy anymore. Not like 20 or 30 years ago,” he says.

Valdivia has been a U.S. citizen for many years. His daughter joined the military to give her parents citizenship.

One of the worst cases of human smuggling on record in the U.S. was in 2003. Nineteen immigrants locked inside a stifling rig died in Victoria, Texas.

Witnesses could hear them begging and screaming for their lives, but the driver refused to free them

That driver was sentenced to nearly 34 years in prison.

 

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