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Hondurans are identified among the victims in the Texas smuggling tragedy

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The death toll is now up to 53 people. Authorities are calling it one of the worst human smuggling tragedies on U.S. soil. They had come from several countries, including Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. Officials there say four people inside the trailer were carrying Honduran IDs. NPR's Carrie Kahn talked with a mother who lost two sons in this tragedy.

KAREN CABALLERO: (Speaking Spanish).

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: "My sons were well-educated, with their futures ahead of them," Karen Caballero tells me. I reached her by phone in northern Honduras. She broke down repeatedly talking about her sons, 23-year-old Alejandro Andino and 18-year-old Fernando Redondo Caballero.

CABALLERO: (Through interpreter) They studied in the wrong country. They were born in the wrong country because, in this country, if you are young, you can't work. No one will give you a chance.

KAHN: Caballero says young people can't get jobs because they don't have experience, and employers won't give them jobs without experience. But she told me it was toughest for her son's longtime girlfriend, 24-year-old Margie Paz, who was also among the bodies found with a Honduran passport.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: The two, who had been together for nine years, posted many videos, like this one on social media right before they left, celebrating with friends, laughing and smiling.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

(CROSSTALK)

KAHN: Paz had finished her economics degree classwork and needed work experience to graduate, but no one would hire her. On top of all that, her mother was diagnosed with cancer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GLORIA PAZ: (Speaking Spanish, crying).

KAHN: Gloria Paz says her daughter gave her life to try and save her. She told local television HCH that she needed an operation, but she and her daughter, who worked in a call center, could never come up with enough money. Honduran officials say they're working with U.S. authorities to identify all the victims and bring them home.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICTOR FERRARI: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: But for now, Victor Ferrari of Honduras' Foreign Ministry told local TV that U.S. officials need the bodies to complete their investigation. Four men are now in custody, including the driver of the tractor trailer, 45-year-old Homero Zamorano Jr., who was found hiding in the bushes near where the trailer was abandoned. Three other men, including two Mexican nationals, have also been charged in the case.

CABALLERO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Karen Caballero, the mother of the two brothers, says she doesn't want her children to have died in vain. She considers her son's girlfriend her child, too.

CABALLERO: (Through interpreter) I don't have any power. I don't have the economic means or the wherewithal to change my country so that our young people have more opportunities, so that they have a chance. But I'll do it (crying).

KAHN: But she says, "somehow, I'm going to do it. I will change this."

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.