Last fiscal year, there were 271 border deaths in Texas. It’s the highest number yet recorded for the state.
Christine Kovic, an anthropologist at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, wrote a report on the trend.
She says the deaths are concentrated in the area around Falfurrias, in Brooks County. Falfurrias is actually 70 miles north of the border, but it has a Border Patrol checkpoint.
“As migrants attempt to go around this checkpoint in the harsh desert terrain, they’re perishing in that region.”
Increased enforcement along the Arizona border may have led to more migrants trying to cross into Texas.
Maria Jimenez is an immigrant rights activist in Houston.
She says officials in South Texas should standardize search and rescue procedures, and put out more distress beacons and water drums. She also wants them to try to identify bodies of migrants.
In many cases, county officials are simply burying them in unmarked graves.
“Our worry is those that are recovered, the remains that are recovered, that the authorities were not following state law, and they were not taking DNA samples.”
Jiminez showed a photo of a missing 18-year-old from El Salvador, Eduardo Javier Henriquez Garcia. He was trying to reunite with his family in the U.S.
“He was crossing in April of this year. Around the 5th or 6th of April. He was with a group a few miles from Falfurrias checkpoint. He collapsed, the group left him there, basically informed the family. The family has been looking for him since then and has no news.”
The Texas Civil Rights Project says many of the counties in the Valley have no money to test the DNA of unidentified bodies, as required by state law.
In the meantime, volunteer groups have been exhuming migrant bodies from graves in south Texas in an attempt to identify the dead, inform their families, and give them a proper burial.