Monday, October 2, 2023

Mass graves of unknown immigrants rise in Texas

Mexico City ,

Severiano Castillo died on a farm in the south sometime in the first half of 2022 Texas. He failed in his attempt to escape the immigration inspection point, and once his body was found, it spent a few months in the morgue until it was buried at the Maverick County Cemetery in Eagle Pass. The recovered items had an identity which led to the assumption that the name on the credential corresponded to the remains.

Stories like this are repeated almost daily at the Texas border, where hundreds of migrants have lost their lives trying to evade border patrol. Bodies that are not identified are eliminated in the pits on which they keep only one Nameless Cross.

(Ariel Ojeda | Digital Millennium)
(Ariel Ojeda | Digital Millennium)

capricious, like almost everyone Texas Border Counties, The crisis is compounded by the high number of deaths of migrants. This has caused the only mortuary in that border area, located in Laredo – about 120 miles from Maverick – to exceed capacity to store bodies in order to bury them without prior identification.

Eduardo Canales, director of the South Texas Center for Human Rights, explains Millennium that the crisis reached Maverick, as it has for a decade at Brooks, which death row Due to the number of inaccessible farms adjacent to the boundary line. But these are not the only counties with this problem: something similar happens in Cameron, Willisie or Zapata, closer to the border, where unidentified bodies buried in graves have been exhumed in recent years.

“It’s a mass death and nobody provides them [a los condados] additional resources to recover these bodies and work on their identification, which is why they end up being buried here, even some with their identification certificates,” explains Kate Spradley, Who leads the team of forensic anthropologists who do the work of digging the grave.

denial of Government On behalf of the state to contribute resources so that every county has morgues, civil society organizations have caused causes to solicit donations to pay for the services of forensic anthropologists, who can exhume bodies to extract DNA and identify those killed. may try to identify those who do not, in the case of Severiano Castillo, by any credential or identity card or even scientifically verify the identity of those who do.

they exhume 100 bodies a year

it is about Operation ID. The team’s work, led by Dr. Spradley, includes locating the areas where the graves are located and moving the remains to San Marcos, a city in Hayes County, for transfer to his lab.

This group is made up of women, students and professors Anthropology from the University of Texas, He worked for 10 days at Maverick Cemetery, which is located just 10 kilometers from the city border with mexico, They managed to retrieve 30 bodies, but it is estimated that over a hundred have been buried at the site in recent years.

(Ariel Ojeda | Digital Millennium)
(Ariel Ojeda | Digital Millennium)

Dr. Spradley has worked with civil organizations for over 10 years in Operation Identification, which is part of the Forensic Border Coalition. He points out that only 14 of the 354 counties in Texas have forensic departments, causing bodies retrieved from farms bordering the transit areas of migrants – who try to avoid Border Patrol posts – to be released to their relatives. without being buried. His fatal fate.

The death of an unidentified migrant represents a double problem. First dig it out and extract the DNA; To compare genetic information later with their relatives, who in most cases do not even know where to start looking for their loved one who disappeared somewhere along the border.

“Once we have the excavations here, we take them to our lab and extract DNA samples to upload to the federal system, which is a very efficient tool if you’re a US citizen, but if you’re not There isn’t much to compare the samples to because the families aren’t in the United States. And if they’re in other countries, it’s difficult to ship and keep those samples,” Spradley acknowledged.

Although the effort is Border Forensic Alliance In 2021, 119 bodies were recovered, while in 2022 the figure was only 91.

(Ariel Ojeda | Digital Millennium)
(Ariel Ojeda | Digital Millennium)

Thanks to a video that appeared on social networks, it became clear that maverick officers buried dozens of bodies and placed unidentified crosses, which is illegal because before burying them, they must have known who they were, the Center for Human to Canales Claims Right to from texas.

“There is no federal funding and now all money is being used to maintain Operation Lonestar, all state money is to maintain border security and each county has to request Dr. Spredley’s services and create their own have to contract. . . a very complex bureaucracy is created,” Canales says.

In spite of everything, this human rights center, together with other groups, managed to raise enough money to request the services of, once again, Department of Forensic Anthropology and dr. Spradley to dig until they found the exact point where they found 30 black bags.

“The law says that in case of an unknown person, the authorities have to get a DNA sample and register it with the University of North Texas to meet the standard. That’s the basics. Instead, here the bodies were piled up in the morgue, and there was no room and they started burying people without their DNA or any other identification process”, explains Eduardo Canales.

800 die a year

Iabout the digging team Brooks County Sheriff Don White is in charge Rescue and recovery of dead bodies. tell that most of the time they get cdeath of a personA that meets the characteristics of A potential migrants, come with border Patrol And they take fingerprints to check against police databases to see if there have been any previous arrests that could lead to identification and make identification easier.

(Ariel Ojeda | Digital Millennium)
(Ariel Ojeda | Digital Millennium)

If there are certificates or documents, they go at the request of countries of origin, as happened with Severiano Castillo, whose relatives went to the Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass and they in turn contacted Dr. Spradley’s team was to confirm identification of the buried person And whose luggage had a certificate of that name.

In 2022, 800 migrants were killed in their efforts, according to Border Patrol data. exceed.

“Unless there is a systematic, safe and regular procedure [de migración]It seems that the death of migrants is not worth it and it will continue to happen,” Canales warned and predicted that if the criminalization of migrant flows persists, the number of deaths will continue to rise. Especially in Texas.

From 2019 onwards with the application of immigration rules known as ‘title 42‘, more than 2.5 million people have been returned to their countries of origin. Despite severe restrictions, migrants are trying to reach US territory, no matter what the risk to their lives.

“The title 42 is going to lead to more deaths of migrants, which are continuing and it seems nobody cares. The migration system is broken and there is no political will to fix it, there are policies to deter smugglers, but they are the ones taking advantage of these policies, and organized crime gets money keeping the migrant corridors in that sense . ” lashes out at the human rights defender.

(Ariel Ojeda | Digital Millennium)
(Ariel Ojeda | Digital Millennium)


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