San Antonio Human Smuggling Tragedy Brings Back Vivid Memories For Victoria’s Sheriff

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJuly 26, 2017 6:29 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The discovery of a stifling tractor-trailer packed with nearly 40 undocumented immigrants on Sunday is reverberating across the country.

In Texas, the human smuggling case, which left 10 people dead in San Antonio, is hitting a nerve in Victoria, Texas.

There, in 2003, 19 undocumented migrants were found dead in the trailer of an 18-wheeler. Human smugglers had packed dozens of people onto the truck, which eventually rose in temperature to a searing 173 degrees.

Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O’Connor was among the first to respond back then, and says the news out of San Antonio brings back memories.

“Ya know, 14 years later it’s still very vivid. And when we respond to these situations, you know, your law enforcement, it does have an effect emotionally on situations of humanity, but at the same time we cannot allow that to take place because we are there to take care of a situation and make sure we do the right thing and do the best we can,” he says.

O’Connor was a deputy in 2003, but when he became sheriff, he made sure his fellow officers who worked on that case had resources to work through what they had experienced. And O’Connor himself says working on that case is something he will never forget.

“Just the fear on their faces, and the illness to which they were, will be forever impacting,” he says.

Sheriff O’Connor says he’s sure the San Antonio Police Department has plenty of resources but he plans to offer them any assistance or advice they may need.

The 2003 Victoria human-smuggling case is considered the deadliest and most prominent human-trafficking case in the United States.

The Texas Senate has taken a major step toward restricting transgender bathroom access in public schools and in government buildings.

State Senators voted 21 to 10 early Wednesday morning to pass Senate Bill 3. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville was the lone Democrat to vote in favor of the measure.

During the hours-long debate, Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) challenged the bill’s author, Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham. He told her about one of his constituents, a transgender man whose birth certificate says “female.”

“You’re going to require him now to go into a female restroom,” he told her during the debate period, “and I just think, in all due respect, that’s just, from a practical standpoint, not going to work. Only if they followed your law, it would create a horrible situation: to have someone identified, and their gender identity would have them as a male, and then they go into a women’s restroom. Do you have a solution for that, I think, huge problem? …Again, the bill refers back to your birth certificate.”

But by the time the bill reached a final vote, there was a significant change to the original provision, which said that transgender people could only use the bathroom that corresponded with the sex listed on their birth certificate. In the version that ultimately passed the Senate, bathroom use would be limited to the sex listed on someone’s birth certificate or other IDs issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

In a recent article, The Texas Tribune points out that that could make it easier for transgender adults to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, but it still does little for kids who don’t have state IDs.

The bill now heads to the Texas House where it faces an uncertain fate.