'They Come From Mexico; They Die in Brooks County': The Border Wars Up Close in Texas

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Stereotypes sometimes dominate the mass media when talk turns to the Texan-Mexican border. Spend some time and a more highly nuanced picture emerges of Texans attempting to cope with the immense human tragedy of immigrants dying on ranches and fields. The immigrants are more desperate, the "coyote" guides more ruthless, and the death toll is matched only by the emotional toll of those who knew the immigrants and those who find their bodies and bury them.

As border security tightens, South Texas becomes a graveyard for the weak and the unlucky, a recent story in The Texas Observer reveals. Here is a sample of the story.

They Die in Brooks County
Mary Jo McConahay |

At the Side Door Café in Falfurrias, Texas, body counts enter conversations as naturally as the price of feed, or the cost of repairing torn fences. "I removed 11 bodies last year from my ranch, 12 the year before," said prominent local landowner Presnall Cage. "I found four so far this year." Sometimes, Cage said, he has taken survivors to a hospital; mostly, however, time and the sun have done their jobs, and it is too late.

As increased U.S. border security closes certain routes, undocumented migrants continue to come but squeeze onto fewer, more dangerous and isolated pathways to America's interior. One of these is the network of trails that bypasses the last Border Patrol checkpoint traveling north on Hwy. 281, in Brooks County. That change is having a dramatic ripple effect on the county (total pop: 7,685), and on people who have lived here for generations.

For one thing, the dead are breaking the budget. County officials earmarked $16,000 in fiscal 2007 for handling deceased indigents. That category includes the remains of undocumented Mexicans and other would-be migrants found within county lines. But by May, Brooks County had already spent $34,195 on autopsies and burials, "and we're just heading into the hot months now," said County Judge Raul Ramirez. It's also rattlesnake mating season, noted the judge, who grew up on the King Ranch. It's the time when the serpents move around most, biting the unwary and those who walk in grass and sand without high boots.

Continued at: http://www.texasobserver.org/article.php?aid=2509

Other stories and opinion on the border wall and other immigration issues from The Texas Observer

Editorial: Get Off the Fence

Border Seen
Impoverished children in San Benito chronicle their lives through photographs

If We Build It, Will They Come?
West Texas residents fight to halt the proposed La Entrada al Pacifico

A Lesson In Equal Protection
The Texas cases that opened the schoolhouse door to undocumented immigrant children

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Julia Austin
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