Data of Bodies Found Reveals Path of Immigrants’ Journey

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FALFURRIAS – The body of a person attempting to cross the border illegally was recovered in Brooks County on Friday.

Every time someone is found, GPS coordinates are recorded. The data from 2015 to present day reveal the journey crossers take through our border.

Traveling through Brooks County takes drivers through Highway 281. For people crossing illegally into the United States, their path takes them far from the road, deep into the brush, and even further into danger.

Read through the books at the Brooks County Sheriff's Office, and anyone will find the same ending – death.

"You never become callous of this. There's always that sensitive part of you. They're humans. That's what they are. You deal with one case at a time," said Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez.

Every time remains are found, they are sent to Webb County. Brooks County sends the most out of nine counties to Webb. Even though Martinez is not a border sheriff, the body count is high.

In 2015, Webb County received 105 remains, 48 were from Brooks County. Last year, there were 124; 61 from Brooks. This year so far, 79 in total; and again, about half from Brooks with 36 bodies.

Dr. Sylvia Gorman studies immigration. She isn't surprised Brooks poses a greater threat than border counties.

Gorman said, "There's resources here, right? It's a bigger area where you can pop into somewhere, get a drink. Go to the McDonald's, or Whataburger, gas station, Stripes, or something to that effect. But, when you get out to Brooks, it's a little more remote."

The checkpoint along Highway 281 is an additional obstacle. People who enter the country illegally go around it. They're also doing something that's putting their life at greater risk.

"Because of lots of law enforcement presence on the main corridor, which is 281 and FM-755. So they're walking further and they're moving further west away from roadways," explains Martinez.

After looking through the data, there was a shift from 2015 into 2016. Just as Martinez stated, the movement is westward. This year is following the same trajectory. This comes with challenges.

"I can tell you that just the conditions themselves of trying to cross into the United States are quite treacherous, especially when we consider the heat and humidity values and the limited resources these individuals have as in drinking water and maybe food," said Gorman.

Higher risks for those who cross through remote areas and those called to rescue them.

"If for some reason that person is already that bad and is lying down, it's going to be very hard to pick up. Now you're going to need air support to get out there and start looking for this person," adds Martinez.

The binders at the Brooks County Sheriff's Office are filled with descriptions of their rescues.

"One case at a time. You still have that little sensitive part in you that says, 'You know, this shouldn't happen,’" said Martinez.

These rescue deputies and volunteers wish it didn’t have to be done.

So far, 91 remains have been recovered this fiscal year by border patrol in the Rio Grande Valley sector.

Families who have a relative they fear has become lost in their journey can call 9-1-1. The Missing Migrant Initiative uses border patrol agents to send out to help.

The Missing Migrant Initiative is a program that works with non-governmental entities to help save lives or bring closure to families who have lost loved ones attempting to cross illegally through the border.

The Missing Migrant Initiative has helped recover 91 remains, so far. They also rescued 919 during this time period too.

In the previous fiscal year of 2016, 116 deaths were recorded through these efforts; 1,148 were rescued.


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