EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — In the last week, the Borderland has seen a number of migrant deaths, along with numerous injuries.
The most recent death was a 24-year-old man from Mexico who died after falling from the border fence. His body was discovered Friday morning.
On Thursday, the body of a migrant was found in Sunland Park, having succumbed to the heat, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
But, what happens to those people if they die or are injured in the United States? El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said those bodies will be taken to the El Paso Medical Examiner’s office.
“They go to the medical examiners and the medical examiners, from there, they try everything possible to try and contact the family,” Samaniego said. “Sometimes we’re very fortunate to be able to contact the families and they can determine whether they want to do something here in El Paso or take them back.”
He said that if no one claims the body, it will be buried locally.
If a migrant is injured and in need of medical attention, they will be transported to a local hospital for treatment. Samaniego said they are most frequently taken to University Medical Center.
“We have unfunded mandates, you know, we have to take care of individuals,” Samaniego said. “And so some we get reimbursed. A lot of it we don’t, so it is a burden to the taxpayer obviously, whether at a federal level or just at a local level.”
Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center said that once they are released from the hospital, they are sent back to Mexico under Title 42, which allows for migrants to be sent back to Mexico over COVID-19 concerns.
“We’re still seeing people returned with very serious injuries after they’ve made some measure of recovery. So they might not be fully recovered, but they might be able to walk again and suddenly they are returned to Mexico,” said Brooke Bischoff, managing attorney at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center.
Bischoff added that if the person is in serious condition, they may be able to stay in some circumstances.
“What we are seeing is really only in the most severe cases are people put into the hospital and then put into regular asylum proceedings from inside the United States,” Bischoff said.
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator sent KTSM a statement about the procedure for bodies from other countries. In the statement, NMOMI explained that the office contacts the deceased person’s home country and tries to locate the family.
“Depending on where the family is located, the decedent may sometimes be transferred to their home country for burial, based on the family’s wishes. OMI exercises its due diligence to locate next of kin, but if left unclaimed, OMI follows procedures for indigent burial, during which the decedent is transported back to the county of death for indigent burial or cremation,” the statement read in part.