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July 24, 2017 06:04 PM

Texas Case Highlights Local Concern About Human Trafficking

Ten people are dead and five remain hospitalized after authorities found them stuffed in a tractor-trailer in Texas.  The people in the trailer were taking turns breathing through a hole and pounding on the walls to get the driver's attention, according to court paperwork.  Authorities found the truck in the parking lot of a San Antonio Walmart.
Reports say the victims paid $5,500 for a ride to northern Texas.

One of the victims told the associated press from his hospital bed he was told the truck would be air conditioned.  Many of the undocumented workers inside the trailer are from Mexico and Guatemala.  The truck driver is charged with several federal crimes tonight.  He could face the death penalty if convicted.

The truck was once owned by Pyle Transportation of Schaller, Iowa.  The company's president says he sold it to a man in Mexico back in May.  The driver now charged was supposed to deliver the vehicle to a pick-up point in Texas.
According to the Associated Press Pyle Transportation has a history of safety, tax and financial problems.

What happened in Texas has captured attention nationwide and here in KELOLAND.

Authorities say the victims were very hot to the touch, and there were signs they had not had any type of water. 

"It's very disturbing," Becky Rasmussen, Executive Director for Call to Freedom, said. 

It appears these victims were part of labor trafficking.

"Labor trafficking is modern day slavery," Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen says this is a $32-billion industry, and traffickers make a lot of money filling demand for these types of workers all over the country.

"These traffickers will come in and find their vulnerabilities, exploit it, fill it by making promises they truly do not intend to keep and pull them into controlled environments where they can't get out," Rasmussen said. 

According to Rasmussen, it is vital to find and save victims as soon as possible, because the people who are trafficked may only live for seven years.  

"What they endure physically, emotionally, and mentally; most of them will not survive," Rasmussen said. 

While authorities continue to investigate the crime and the man allegedly behind it, Rasmussen says this highlights the need for more efforts to fight this cycle of abuse.

"It's happening here.  It is happening in Sioux Falls.  It's happening in South Dakota.  It's happening in Iowa.  It's happening in communities we wouldn't even expect.  It's happening," Rasmussen said. 

Whether it is in Texas, or here, Rasmussen says we all need to recognize the warning signs of someone in danger before more lives are lost. 

"It's not going to go away unless we as a community stand up and say no more," Rasmussen said. 

© 2017 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.
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