The Texas Civil Rights Project recently issued the following news release on the campaign to use an existing program to help identify the remains of presumed undocumented immigrants who died at the border.
Falfurrias, Texas - The Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) and community allies, including La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), Proyecto Azteca, ARISE, and Houston United convened on the steps of the Brooks County courthouse in Falfurrias, Texas to voice a collective concern for the growing number of unidentified bodies being buried in Falfurrias.
“What we are dealing with throughout South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley is the changing pattern of migration,” TCRP Houston Legal Advocate Tom Power stated. “Ever-changing border enforcement strategies are now filtering many individuals through Texas, whereas years ago, Arizona seemed to be desired place to cross.”
According to recent reports, 129 bodies were found in Brooks County alone in 2012. Almost one-third of these bodies went unidentified.
“The law is clear in its prescription for how to handle these bodies. State law mandates the collection of DNA when a set of remains is otherwise unidentified”, South Texas Civil Rights Project Staff Attorney Joseph Martin stated.
“Forty-seven unidentified bodies for the year of 2012 is absolutely unacceptable. Each of these bodies is buried in a pauper’s grave, without name, without family, without dignity. Each set of remains that goes unidentified is one too many,” Power said.
A group based in San Diego, Los Angeles del Desierto, receives calls directly from grieving families to facilitate searches for lost loved ones. In the last few years, the incoming calls from South Texas have spiked. “[Los Angeles del Desierto] alerted us to this issue several years ago”, stated Houston-based civil rights activist Maria Jimenez. “As a group that works directly with the grieving families, one of their main concerns has been the obstacles they have encountered when it comes to properly identifying bodies. As a solution, they began reaching out to private anthropologists, but transportation of the bodies has become very costly.”
Through a federal program, University of North Texas (UNT) Health Services Center is tasked with collecting DNA samples from human remains- free of charge to local law enforcement. “There really is no excuse for not sending all unidentified remains through UNT,” said Power. “In the past, they have given seminars and presentations to several South Texas counties to illustrate the importance of identifying through DNA.”
“We came to Falfurrias today as a concerned community. We understand that the situation arose quickly and that the county is already financially burdened. But what we are proposing is not costly; it is simply the right thing to do.” said Martin. “We need provide a way for the grieving families of the hundreds of missing men women and children to determine, if possible, what has become of their loved ones.”