McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A coalition of migrant advocates that helps missing migrants and identify migrant remains is in Washington, D.C., to talk to lawmakers about the rising number of asylum-seekers who die each year trying to cross the border from Mexico.
On Thursday, members of the South Texas Human Rights Center, of Brooks County, and Operation Identification, a forensic anthropology program at Texas State University, are scheduled to meet with three Democratic representatives from Texas: U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro, of San Antonio; Vicente Gonzalez, of McAllen; and Sylvia Garcia, of Houston, according to a news release.
Eddie Canales, director of the Human Rights Center, and Dr. Kate Spradley, a forensic anthropologist who heads Operation Identification, on Thursday also are holding a news conference on Thursday at the U.S. Capitol to discuss the historic number of migrant deaths this past year in Brooks County.
Brooks County, which is just north of Hidalgo County, about 65 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, has had the most migrant deaths of any border county — 119 deaths in 2021. It is a rural ranching county that is desolate and plagued with triple-digit heat in the summer and punishing winds in the winter.
A clip of the award-winning documentary, “Missing in Brooks County” also will be shown on Thursday.
Spradley has led a team of anthropology students to border counties to dig up unidentified remains that were buried in several remote cemeteries along the Texas-Mexico border.
Canales works with families and law enforcement agencies to identify victims and help missing migrants.
“Spradley and Canales will discuss practical steps that members of Congress and other U.S. policymakers — from both parties — can take to mitigate migrant deaths and support the processing and identification of migrant remains, helping families to gain closure about what happened to their loved ones,” the news release said.
Both have been advocating for a regional centralized DNA system on the border to better identify migrant remains and that of other unidentified individuals.
“Our state is unlike every other state in the country. We don’t have a regional coroner or medical examiner system. If we had a regional center of identification or regional medical examiner’s system in the Rio Grande Valley and in West Texas, we would not have the problems we have today,” Spradley told Border Report in November.
Her goal is that South Texas will establish a system similar to that in Pima, Arizona, which has identified thousands of migrant remains in the past decade, she said.