Texas County Overwhelmed by Dead Illegal Immigrants

Sparsely-populated Brooks County saw 129 bodies last year

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 23, 2013 9:18 AM CDT

(Newser) – Last year, a border county in Texas recovered 129 bodies belonging to immigrants who were attempting to make the trek from Mexico only to be felled by the elements; the toll stands at 76 so far this year. That's a staggering number for Brooks County, which has historically seen about 60 bodies a year and had a toll second only to the 171 found dead in Arizona's Pima County in 2012. But the latter has nearly a million residents, while Brooks County's population sits at just over 7,100. The AP makes two points: First, that the numbers suggest migration routes are shifting from long-trodden paths into Arizona to ones that enter deep southern Texas. Second, that it's putting a real strain on the county, which has decided to transport all remains 90 miles to Webb County so DNA sampling and more thorough attempts at identification can occur; the county's chief deputy will drive the bodies there himself.

Last year's 129 bodies overwhelmed the county budget, and despite the fact that local officials believe it's a federal problem, the county hasn't seen any federal money. The immigrants are typically dropped off south of a Border Patrol checkpoint and must hike for two or three days before being picked up and taken to Houston. One local ranch manager says he's probably found 25 bodies on the property in 23 years, and now he's doing his part to help: Though he wants a double-layer border fence erected, in the meantime, he's installing water stations for immigrants to use. "I'm trying to expose the killing fields of Brooks County," he says. "We're just trying to be human about it."

In this Aug. 23, 2013, photo, rancher Lavoyger Durham checks a 55-gallon he keeps filled with water jugs and marked by a flag on his ranch, near Falfurrias, Texas.
In this Aug. 23, 2013, photo, rancher Lavoyger Durham checks a 55-gallon he keeps filled with water jugs and marked by a flag on his ranch, near Falfurrias, Texas.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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.
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.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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