This week, I bring you a different kind of story. This one deals with the tragic side of immigration, focusing on the border with Mexico. While I prefer to focus on stories of success, it’s also important to be aware that some who attempt to find a better life do not succeed. In some cases, they lose their lives in the midst of their journey.

Indeed, crossing the border from Mexico into the United States can become a deadly endeavor. Sometimes, deaths happen while in custody or in the process of being apprehended by border patrol agents. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, between 1998 and 2017, there were 7,216 deaths. In 2005, over 500 deaths were counted. The U.S. Border Patrol reports that last year, 283 people died in the Southwest Sector (Texas to California). The most common causes of death are heat exhaustion, dehydration and hyperthermia. Many of these victims go unidentified. Lack of identification cards or other documents is common, on the bodies. To make matters worse, the harsh desert conditions can render a face unrecognizable by the second day of death. As such, there’s a high number of deceased that go unidentified.

Amazingly, there are some people who are dedicated to identifying those who lose their lives at the border. Through forensics analysis, they seek to reconnect the remains with their loved ones. Dr. Robin Reineke is a pioneer in this field. In 2006, as a graduate student of anthropology at the University of Arizona, Dr. Reineke began working with the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner. She developed innovative ways of identifying the remains of migrants who had died in the Arizona desert. The work led her to co-founding the Colibrí Center for Human Rights. Internationally, she’s recognized as an innovator and leader in the effort to end disappearances and to restore human dignity along the southern border.

Dr. Robin Reineke, photo by Colibrí Center for Human Rights

Here is a video from 2014, which still applies today. Dr. Reineke explains the work and challenges of her job. I found it insightful and moving. I hope that you do as well. Click here.

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions, below.

Next week, I’ll feature an interview with Indra, who received her green card, last week. Her and her husband are from Mexico. He serves in the US Navy. The interview will focus on her first month in the United States.