Friday, September 22, 2023

A deadly summer for immigrants


While patrolling the thick brush along the South Texas border, Don White of the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office stopped to study a few empty water jugs, torn clothing and many confusing footprints, looking for on the signs of migrants who may have been lost in the scorching heat. hot

“It’s old,” White said, pointing to the slower lanes. “There is no danger now.” At least for now, he said quietly.

Fewer people have crossed from Mexico this year compared to last year, but there will be more than 500 deaths in 2023 – confirmed by the discovery of the bodies or partial remains of White and others like him. In 2022, one of the deadliest in recent years, there were 853 confirmed deaths.

Tracking immigrant deaths is an imperfect science. Many drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande; Others die from the suffocating conditions of the desert or lack of water, and their deaths from dehydration, heatstroke, or hypothermia. This summer’s relentless heat, combined with stifling humidity, has contributed to many of the deaths, local and US officials said.

The Border Patrol posted warnings on social media.

“Extreme temperatures contributed to 45 people being saved and 10 people dying due to heat and dangerous conditions,” wrote Jason Owens, the agency’s director, in July on X, formerly known as Twitter . He said his agents found 13 migrants who died last week.

Even migrants who make it across the river and inland face many challenges, White said. Guided by smugglers, many migrants take dangerous routes to avoid a Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias, about 80 miles north of the Rio Grande, often without enough food or water to last a day’s journey. .

The southwest border of the United States is known as one of the deadliest in the world. Since 1998, at least 7,805 people have died trying to cross the Mexican border and more than 3,527 remain missing, reports the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, an advocacy organization that reports on missing migrants. and conducted a DNA search for identifiable remains.

“It won’t take long for something to be lost here,” White, 70, said.

White’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing with messages from desperate people, especially from Latin America, with missing family members. He read messages from a Guatemalan woman who hadn’t heard from her brother in months. “Please find him,” he wrote. He includes a photo and description: 28 years old, dark eyes, brown skin, and a rose tattoo.

For White, that does little. “Without coordinates, how can you find someone lost in this vast land?” he said.

Not all cases are like this. He took a picture of a man he helped save on the warm land outside of Falfurrias. The man, a 44-year-old Mexican immigrant named Arnulfo, was so weak and dehydrated that he no longer looked like the man described on the identification he carried. Paramedics immediately gave him three liters of intravenous saline, which White said likely saved his life.

Arnulfo was exiled to Mexico. However, he crossed over illegally again and now works at a restaurant in Mississippi. Reached by phone, Arnulfo, who did not want his last name published for fear of deportation, said he was grateful to the people who found him. “I should have died, for sure,” he said.

The bodies of the dead are usually sent to morgues and then sometimes buried in unmarked graves. Others were sent to labs for further tests to determine how they died. Molly Kaplan, a doctoral researcher, works as a case manager for Operation Identification, a project at Texas State University, which analyzes the remains and possessions of dead immigrants to help identify theirs. He said he is still confused about a case that took more than a decade to solve.

Sandra Yaneth Aguilar was 14 years old in 2007 when she crossed the border near Brownsville, Texas, and then disappeared. After years of not knowing his whereabouts, his mother submitted a DNA sample in 2011. But it wasn’t until 2022 that researchers compared the sample to remains found four years earlier in an unmarked tomb, along with dozens of others. unidentified people in neighboring Willacy County. Sandra’s remains were released to her family, who now live in the northeastern United States.

“You think, I’m only 14 years old. Where was I when I was 14 years old? My biggest problem at that age was learning to drive, and this girl was migrating alone, trying to reach her family,” said Molly Scott, 20, a Texas state laboratory assistant.

The laboratory contains more than 300 human bodies and dozens of containers and bags containing personal items found in the bushes: rosaries, prayer seals, dirty clothes. The lab also has skeletal fragments — a woman hit by a truck, a man found dead on dry land — and researchers are working to identify them. Since the project began in 2013, the operation has received 483 dead and identified 95, including 24 this year.

“We will continue our new season until September. October began with a cooling trend, enough not to affect those crossing.

For now, he continues to look for new tracks in the undergrowth.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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