Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Migrant Crisis Stretches Into Texas Wilderness

Daniel Zamarripa loaded his police dog into the back of his patrol car and set out to track his quarry -- immigrants circumventing the local Border Patrol checkpoint. Zamarripa, 27, is one of 15 reserve deputies brought in to assist the Brooks County Sheriff's Office, whose four deputies have lately found themselves overwhelmed by 911 calls from migrants stranded on the vast ranches that stretch from here to the horizon in all directions. Then there are the bodies of migrants who didn't make it to retrieve and identify: 42 so far this year. Most attention to the crisis on the Southwest border has focused in recent weeks on the Rio Grande Valley, where many of the 57,000 unaccompanied children and a large number of families have crossed from Mexico since October, twice last year's total. Many surrender to immigration agents willingly at the Rio Grande, aware that they will be allowed to stay pending immigration court hearings. But an unknown number end up here, 70 miles north of the border, in the meadows and scrubland that have become the region's deadliest killing fields for migrants. Since 2009, authorities have recovered more than 400 immigrants' bodies in the county, including that of a 16-year-old Central American boy discovered last month. Law enforcement is under growing pressure to move quickly to save migrants and recover the dead. The challenge comes at a bad time of year, when brush is still abundant and high from recent rains, concealing both migrant routes and human remains. "These are critical months," Martinez said. "When the vegetation goes down, that's when you start locating bodies."...more

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