Immigrant Deaths Burden Small Texas County

From AP and Yahoo News:

In this Aug. 23, 2013, photo, a small sign at a cemetery marks the grave site of an unidentified body found on a ranch, in Falfurrias, Texas. Brooks County, home to a Border Patrol checkpoint about an hour north of the border, handled 129 bodies last year of immigrants that died in their attempt to come to the U.S. Brooks County is now trying to improve its services by performing an autopsy on all immigrants and making greater efforts to identify them. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

FALFURRIAS, Texas (AP) — By the time the woman perished, she had probably slogged 25 miles through dry ranch lands in her quest to enter the United States. She was found just feet from a highway where she might have been picked up and taken to Houston with other migrants making the same journey.

Not long ago, her body would have been taken to a funeral home for a cursory attempt at identification, then buried in this town an hour north of the Mexico border under a sign reading “unknown female.”

Her death, probably from hypothermia, is part of a mounting body count that has overwhelmed sparsely populated Brooks County, providing further evidence that immigrants are shifting their migration routes away from the well-worn paths into Arizona and instead crossing into deep southern Texas. The changing patterns have put an extra burden on local governments with limited experience in such matters and even fewer financial resources.

“There are some counties that have the economic wherewithal to take on these issues, and there are other counties that just don’t have any money, so that puts them into a real bad bind,” said Raquel Rubio Goldsmith, coordinator of the Binational Migration Institute at the University of Arizona, which researches immigration issues.

But Brooks County is trying to step up to the challenge. Now, all newly recovered bodies and skeletal remains of suspected immigrants will travel 90 miles to nearby Webb County for autopsies, DNA sampling and more intense efforts at identification.

It’s a monumental step for Brooks County, population just over 7,100, where on a recent morning the chief deputy mopped the floors of the sheriff’s office himself. He will also be making the weekly trips to deliver corpses to the medical examiner in Laredo.

The county handled 129 bodies last year, which Judge Raul Ramirez, the county’s top administrator, says blew a hole in the budget. And even though he and most other local officials see illegal immigration as a federal problem, federal money has not followed.

Last year, Brooks County trailed only Pima County, Ariz., in the number of immigrant bodies recovered and they already have 76 this year. Nearly a million people live in Pima County, and the 171 bodies found in 2012 were consistent with annual totals dating back to 2004, according to a report by the migration institute.

Brooks County, on the other hand, averaged 50 to 60 dead before last year, but Border Patrol apprehensions in the area have soared.

The number of immigrants detained in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley border sector outpaced the historic leader, the Tucson sector, by more than 30,000. Those numbers are an imperfect measure of the overall flow of migrants, but most of the growth has involved Central American immigrants, who often take the more direct route to the U.S. through Texas.

Immigrants typically die in Brooks County trying to circumvent a Border Patrol checkpoint. They’re usually dropped off with guides south of the checkpoint and forced to hike for two or three days to a pickup spot north of the checkpoint.

In the past, unidentified immigrants were crammed into the local cemetery without DNA samples being taken. The cemetery did not even have accurate records for the dead. In May, Lori Baker, a Baylor University anthropologist, led a team to Falfurrias to exhume unidentified immigrants’ graves.

Baker identified 54 marked graves but found 63 burials. In some cases, the team opened a body bag expecting to find one person and found four other bags of remains. Some of the remains carried tags indicating they came from a neighboring county.

She plans to return for more exhumations next year, and she’s encouraged by the county’s progress, noting that the short-staffed sheriff’s office is going to start taking DNA samples from family members who come looking for missing loved ones.

Three days before the woman was found on the El Tule Ranch, ranch manager Lavoyger Durham proudly showed off his personal contribution to addressing the problem: a 55-gallon blue plastic drum holding one-gallon water jugs. The water station is topped with a 30-foot pole and a large blue flag.

Durham said it was the first water station in Brooks County, and he has plans for several more. He would prefer for the government to erect a double-layer border fence. But in the meantime, the 68-year-old doesn’t want to see people continue to die on the ranch. He estimates he’s found 25 bodies on the property in the past 23 years.

“I’m trying to expose the killing fields of Brooks County,” Durham said. “If dead human beings don’t catch your attention, what the hell else is going to? We’re just trying to be human about it.”

Dr. Corinne Stern, the Webb County medical examiner, puts her office’s identification rate on non-skeletal remains at 65 to 70 percent. But the woman from the ranch remains a Jane Doe for now. Found on Aug. 26, she was already in an advanced stage of decomposition.

There are clues, though. She was wearing earrings and a ring on the middle finger of her left hand. She wore a Gold’s Gym t-shirt and pink Converse sneakers with pink laces. She carried several phone numbers, which haven’t turned up anything yet.

Tucked into one pocket of her shorts was a photo of a boy about age five. He’s wearing a suit and what appears to be a graduation cap.


I have as much compassion as the next person, but it is astounding that we continue to spend money, at all levels, in order to process both the living and the dead illegals, when if the Feds had thoroughly secured the borders, this would be a non-issue.

By not completing their job, the Feds have forced the states and the affected counties to bear the added expense of dealing with these illegals who didn’t make it to safety.

Brooks County had already spent the time and money to bury the dead, yet an anthropologist exhumed the bodies to collect DNA. Her attempt to identify the bodies is admirable,  albeit an impossible task, but it also created another expense and increased the work load of the sheriff’s office.

My question would be why don’t we just take them back to Mexico and let them sort it out? It seems more economical, but there’s likely some brilliant regulation that prohibits that.

Kudos to Mr. Durham for doing the humane thing with the water barrels for these guys.



Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Immigrant Deaths Burden Small Texas County

  1. Buck says:

    Right on, Kathy. The left says it’s your fault for not allowing open borders. The right says it’s their fault for not securing the borders.
    Frankly I don’t give a shit about dead illegals. If they’d stayed at home they’d probably be a lot better off.
    Just think. If these illegals would spend the same amount of energy trying to change the corrupt nature of their government instead of coming to mooch off us they might have a country worth staying for.

    • Kathy says:

      Compared to what the coyotes charge these people, it would be cheaper to migrate legally and they’d stay alive longer.

    • upaces88 says:

      I can’t find compassion in myself for someone who was on the way here ILLEGALLY.
      I have far too many stories that have come into my life to watch these people and what they bring to a neighborhood; and no, not all of them….but how do you tell a rapist from a family man?

      I have been saying this for a very long time. Be part of the solution in your own country. Do NOT bring problems here to Texas!

      IF I sound bitter? Just Google: Parkland Hospital/Dallas, TX for the number of Illegals who give birth as citizens of Dallas County have to pay for it because it is a “County Hospital.”

      I live in Collin Country (about 30 min from Dallas; and about 45 minutes to an hour to the Oklahoma Border (depending on traffic). I have had an illegal female walk up to me who didn’t speak English but ask “Parkland Hospital?)…Meaning they wanted Dallas County to pay for the arrival of their baby. I said in English, “Not here”… and walked off.

      This is common where I live. I resent the hell out of it.

      • upaces88 says:

        I worked in a Shelter for Battered Women for about 2 yrs. We had bleeding heart liberals who ran the place who allowed “the illegals” to come to the shelter. Welll, I gave in; and said, “Look, if they are gong to be here, I don’t speak Spanish and do NOT intend to learn…so we need an interpreter IF you are going to allow them to come here. Counseling was one of the steps be ivolved with heavily before they “received FREE rent in an apartment for them and their children.”
        I thought it strange EVEN when I went to the trouble of having a Spanish teacher from the local Community College come in to interpret what I was saying… the said NOTHING.
        Long story short? They did receive the healthcare they need from Parkland Hospital. They did get the new apartment FREE for 3 moths…UNTIL, a “spot check” by one of the counselors went to their home (apartment)…and guess who answered the door?
        The husband who was NOT a man who battered them. It was all a lie!
        I gave my notice because the head of the shelter wanted to go ahead and help them anyway as WE TURNED AMERICAN CITIZENS away from the shelter because we were too full.

        • upaces88 says:

          Sorry about the words I spelled wrong. I was very angry when I was typing it…and didn’t check. This experience was way back in 1995 and I STILL GET ANGRY ALL OVER AGAIN!
          P.S. Those women also brought a disease with them (I can’t spell it…but it sounds like “SHE GALA”). One of our counselors was pregnant and she almost lost the baby because of an illegal bringing that here from Mexico.

        • Kathy says:

          Thanks for sharing that. I’m not surprised at the outcome though, because that sort of thing goes on in many Texas towns. We need to send them all back to Mexico, and preferably with a lib under each arm.

          • upaces88 says:

            ​1) Have those that are already here — register (just like our ancestors did at Ellis Island);
            2) Background checks are a MUST;
            3) They register, they MUST attend classes to learn to read and speak English (most community colleges offer classes);
            4) They must learn the Constitution; Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence (and be tested);
            5) They must then go before a judge to be sworn in as an American Citizen.
            6) The men “must” join the Military if he is under 30 years of age.
            7) They must have a health Check; The adults will NEVER receive Social Security benefits because they have not paid into it. They are NOT to receive food stamps for the same reason. They have never paid into the system to warrant receiving food stamps.
            8) No Drivers Licenses will be issued to any person who cannot prove they are in the U.S. “legally.” All Driver’s License Tests are in English
            9) Put the Military on the border. Place signs at every major path where they come into the U.S. Also run ads in all the major newspapers; and give a press release to every major TV station in Mexico. IF shot crossing the border “illegally, any lawsuits will not be accepted in any U.S. court
            Individuals who hire illegals will be fined $25,000 per person (prior to this, the fine was only $250 here in Texas; Corporations who hire illegals will be fined $50,00 per person;
            It is illegal to house illegals. It is already in law that Real Estate Sales Reps as well as apartments cannot rent to them. They do anyway. FINE THEM MUCH MORE HEAVILY and if it is the 2nd offense, they should lose their real estate license and/or be put in jail.
            Community Colleges allow them to register for school. They should also be heavily fined.

            To stop the illegals (and dope runners) from crossing the borders, put the Military on the border. Prior to
            that, run an ad in every major newspaper in Mexico, Central America that they will be shot if caught trying to cross the border. NO LAW SUITS WILL BE HONORED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

            And, YES, there will be profiling…Anyone who is a U.S. citizen will NOT have a problem proudly showing their Drivers License, correct legal papers; or any other proof. THEY ARE, AFTER ALL, INVADING OUR COUNTRY and this has to be stopped and they will agree with us.

  2. Clyde says:

    Good post, but I agree with Buck. Also, WHY doesn’t Brooks County administrators simply send the bill to Obama, Pelosi, Reid, McCain, et al ? After all, it’s ONLY fair, eh? THEY continue to exacerbate the problem, let THEM pay for it.

  3. Buck says:


    Send the bill for burying dead Mexican illegals to Obama et al and they would be voting in 2014!

  4. Garnet92 says:

    A great story – a sad one for the unidentified woman – but one that shouldn’t be ignored. I agree with Buck to the extent that these illegals bring it on themselves, but it still saddens me that we (Obama and the dems) don’t prevent this by making a border crossing more difficult and actually deporting those that slip through. He and his ilk are responsible for the illegals that die en route to a “better life” and for giving them reason to come in the first place (free benefits). But then, Buck has a point that Obama wants them here since they will become democrat voters one way or another (alive or dead) anyway.

  5. Terry says:

    I say shoot ’em and stuff their bodies in the water barrels, load ’em up on a truck, and drive it back across the border.