INS lets truck crossing survivors stay to work

| 9/12/2002

Immigration officials are letting two dozen Mexican immigrants who survived a deadly journey to Dallas in a tractor-trailer to stay and work in the United States while prosecutors prepare the case against their smugglers.

Federal prosecutors are still deciding which immigrants will make the best witnesses against the smugglers, who were charged with murder and human trafficking after two immigrants died of heat stroke and dozens were hospitalized in July following a 12-hour trip from El Paso in an unventilated trailer.

Nine people have been named in a 64-count indictment in the case, including two truckdrivers and seven others believed to be involved in the smuggling operation based in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and El Paso. If convicted, the drivers could face a maximum of life in prison or the death penalty.

Because of the need for witnesses when the cases come to trial, the INS granted the immigrants "humanitarian parole," a status that allows them to stay in the country for at least six months. The INS also granted them permission to work, and many are awaiting documents from the Social Security Administration before seeking jobs.