The Conversation

Texas Town Swamped with Dead Bodies, 911 Calls 70 Miles From the Border

Brooks County is too far from the border to receive federal funds for illegal immigrants, but from the discovery of mass graves, illegals, including children, who roam aimlessly sometimes until dead from the heat and exhaustion, the current immigration crisis is far from confined to the border.

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.

Deputies and human rights volunteers are trying to keep up with events; however, the impression is, they are overwhelmed.

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.

According to Chief Sheriff's Deputy Urbino "Benny" Martinez, officers have been catching 30 to 40 immigrants in the county a week, about double the number six months ago.

An exploding numbers of illegals, may of them children, think they are nearing what some call the 'promised land' of Houston, the destination for most. Unfortunately, the city is actually hundreds of miles away and the landscape, along with the weather is deceptively unwelcome.

May get lost, or simply aren't fit enough to survive the trek, which often includes deceptive directions from smugglers. More and more bodies, may of them children, have been turning up each week as the crisis continues.

Smugglers generally ferry immigrants in groups from the valley up to a road south of the Border Patrol checkpoint. The immigrants are expected to skirt the checkpoint and walk along back roads and through the brush 25 to 30 miles north to another road known as a pickup point.

Some are misled by the smugglers.

"We had one a few weeks ago, they told him when they dropped him off he only had to walk a few miles to reach his final destination: Houston," Aguirre said.

Houston is 270 miles north.

"They see the lights and think it's Houston," Aguirre said. "When we tell them it's Falfurrias, that they're far away, they give up."


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