NPR

After Grim Deaths In The Borderlands, An Effort To Find Out Who Migrants Were

More than 200 migrants die attempting to cross the Southwest border each year. Slowly, scientists at a Texas laboratory are seeking the story of their bones.
The team measures and documents bones of the body as part of intake OPID 699, which was one of 16 human remains exhumed at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Brooks County in January. Operation Identification's goal is to identify and repatriate unidentified human remains that were found in the South Texas borderlands. Source: Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Editor's note: This story contains descriptions and photos of human remains that some readers may find disturbing.

Border Patrol agents steer their all-terrain buggy through dense brush on the historic King Ranch. They're looking for a human skeleton.

They spotted bones earlier in the day when they were chasing a group of migrants through this pasture, and they marked the GPS coordinates. Now they're returning with a sheriff's deputy.

Then they find the remains, next to a patch of orange wildflowers, in the shade of a mesquite tree. The bones have been scattered asunder — some vertebrae, part of the pelvis, the jaw.

"The animals get to them, and they just tear 'em apart," says Deputy Bianca Mora with the Brooks County Sheriff's Office.

The discovery of the bones this month is a grim reminder of an aspect of illegal immigration that is often overlooked these days, with the Trump administration focused every day.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR2 min read
Women's World Cup: Team USA To Bring All They Have Against Chile
They play their second match of the Cup Sunday. "You put yourself in the best position to advance in this tournament," Coach Jill Ellis said when asked if she'd tell her team to play less than 100%.
NPR5 min readSociety
Pregnant, Locked Up, And Alone
Natalie Lynch spent the last two weeks of her pregnancy in a prison cell, mostly alone. As female incarceration rates rise, some states are banning solitary confinement of pregnant women.
NPR4 min read
A Muslim In Rural, White Minnesota On How To 'Love Thy Neighbor'
After Donald Trump's election, Dr. Ayaz Virji started giving talks to mostly white, Christian audiences in rural Minnesota to try to dispel misconceptions about Muslims. He faced a lot of backlash.