Teen Who Died in Texas Smuggling Truck Was a DREAMer Raised in Virginia

Image: Officials investigate a truck that was found to contain 38 suspected illegal immigrants in San Antonio, Texas, July 23, 2017.
Officials investigate a truck that was found to contain 38 suspected illegal immigrants in San Antonio, Texas, July 23, 2017. Eight of the people died at the scene, seventeen were transported to area hospitals with life-threatening injuries, and thirteen people had non-life-threatening injuries, police said.Darren Abate / EPA

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Elizabeth Chuck

Among the 10 people killed in a human smugglers' truck discovered outside a Texas Walmart was a deported Guatemalan teen who grew up in America and was trying to get back to his family.

Frank Giusseppe Fuentes, 19, was born in Guatemala, but came to the U.S. illegally with his parents when he was 2 years old, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He was deported in March after being convicted of assault and battery by a mob and was a suspected member of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang, ICE spokesperson Carissa Cutrell said in a statement.

But a friend said Fuentes was more than what his criminal record portrayed him to be.

“He brought so much positivity to so many people,” Kelly Barrios-Mazariegos, who grew up with Fuentes, told the Washington Post. “Every time you would tell him there was a problem or something, he would giggle, and he would say we would figure it out.”

Fuentes grew up in Virginia just 10 miles east of the nation's capital and graduated from J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church in 2015, NBC Washington reported.

He was sneaking back into the United States to be reunited with his parents — undocumented immigrants now living in Maryland — when he died in the stifling hot, pitch-black trailer of an 18-wheeler in San Antonio, according to the consul of Guatemala in McAllen, Texas.

The truck driver, James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, has been charged with transporting undocumented immigrants for financial gain and could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted. Bradley has told officials he had no idea what was in the back of his truck until he made a pit stop in San Antonio and heard banging from inside.

Related: Fiancée of Truck Driver Accused in Deadly Human Smuggling Case: ‘He Was Scared’

In addition to the 10 people who died, dozens were hospitalized with heatstroke and dehydration, officials said.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Fuentes was granted a reprieve from deportation under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. As a so-called "DREAMer" — an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. as a young child — Fuentes was permitted to stay until his DACA grant expired on June 5, 2016. His most recent DACA filing on June 23, 2016 was denied by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

His friend said she exchanged Snapchat messages with him a month ago and that Fuentes was struggling to adjust to life in Guatemala.

A couple visits a make-shift memorial in the parking lot of a Walmart store on July 24, 2017 in San Antonio.Eric Gay / AP

“He’s been here forever,” Barrios-Mazariegos told the Post. “He doesn’t know what Guatemala was. His home is here, his friends are here, his family is here.”

His parents have asked for his body to be returned to them, Cristy Andrino, the consul of Guatemala told NBC News. Andrino confirmed Fuentes was trying to get to his family in Maryland when he died, but wouldn't discuss the case further.

"I was talking to his father and he kindly requested not to speak about his son out of respect," she said.

At least two other Guatemalans were in the truck and both survived, Andrino said. One is a minor and the other is an adult.

Mexicans were among the other victims. The country's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that seven Mexican died and 27 were still in the hospital.