Officials in Brooks County, Texas, recovered the bodies and skeletal remains of 55 migrants so far this year attempting to circumvent an interior border checkpoint. Brooks County is located approximately 80 miles inland from the Texas border with Mexico.
Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez told Breitbart Texas they are seeing an increasing number of deaths in his county due to the massive spike in illegal border crossings this year. The migrants are dying as they are marched by human smugglers through ranches that surround the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint located on U.S. Highway 281. More than 20 of the 55 deaths reported in Brooks County this year took place since June 2.
“We have more migrants than ever attempting to make the life-endangering trek around the (Border Patrol) checkpoint,” Martinez told Breitbart. “The more who come, the more who die.”
The circumstances surrounding body recoveries fall into several categories. Some are people who die shortly before or just after law enforcement officials respond to emergency calls for help from the migrants or their families, the Texas sheriff explained. Others are either found days later by ranchers or Border Patrol agents, or when they are reported by other migrants who are apprehended at a later time. Finally, he said, “Some have been consumed by animals and the elements and only bones remain to tell their stories.”
“Many of these migrants fall prey to the heat and simply collapse,” Martinez said. “Human smugglers, or other migrants traveling with the victim, simply abandon them and let them die. They make no effort to call for help because they fear their own apprehension.”
Martinez has seen these deaths for more than a decade but this year is building to become one of the worst in recent memory. “We are at 51 deaths and the summer heat is just now beginning,” he said. “With temperatures reaching in excess of 100 degrees, many are simply not prepared for what they face when smugglers drop them off in the southern part of the county and send them on their way. Rarely are they given enough food and water to safely make the journey.”
In addition to the heat, the migrants must also make their way through the terrain of deep, soft sand. The sand is so soft that four-wheel-drive vehicles frequently get stuck, Breitbart Texas observed in previous visits to the county.
“With the spike in people surrendering to agents in the Rio Grande Valley, Border Patrol resources are stretched thin and are not as available for life-saving search operations as they have been in recent years,” Martinez reported. “Many will die in Brooks County because of the chaos created along the border by political changes in policy in Washington.”
Deputies in Brooks County make the near-weekly treks into the ranches to join with Border Patrol agents in recovering the bodies or skeletal remains of those who perished while attempting to march around the checkpoint.
“It takes a toll on our people,” Martinez explained. “They have to live with the gruesome sights and smells they encounter on these recoveries. They have to deal with their own trauma of what they witnessed. It is a difficult thing to experience once, let alone more than 50 times in one year.”
The news from Brooks County comes at about the same time national media attention focused on the deaths of more than 50 migrants trapped in the rear of a tractor-trailer rig in San Antonio.
“A single incident like this draws the attention of the news media,” the sheriff observed. “Those victims deserve to have their stories told and I am glad the story is being told. But, the 50 people who died in Brooks County also should be told. People should be just as outraged over these deaths spread over the course of six months as they are about those who died in a single incident.”
With more than 20 deaths reported since June 2, Martinez believes it could become a record-setting year. “This many deaths in less than a month moves us into record territory. The pace is unrelenting and there appears to be no end in sight.”