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new money was put into barriers, fences, and electronic surveillance. The number of agents went from 3,400 agents to about 6,000. That number will almost double again in the next three years. The campaign shows no signs of working. Arrests at the old crossing areas are dramatically down. But in no-man’s-lands from California to Texas, they have skyrocketed, so much so that this year, at the southern U.S. line, the Border Patrol expects to make more arrests of undocumented immigrants some 1.2 million than in any year since 1986. Immigrants in these desolate outbacks are often immigrants in distress. Indeed, the number of dead has shot up since the deterrence program began. At the Gulf of Mexico near Brownsville in 1996, a huge wave swept nine Pakistanis off a sand bar to their deaths. In Arizona last year, a flash flood killed eight people trying to cross north in an underground drainage pipe. In Southern California a few weeks ago, ten people from one group of crossers were found dead the largest mass fatality in two decades. For California and Arizona, the body count, as of the end of August, was more than 100 dead. As of mid-August, the tally was 127 in Texas: seventy-two drowned and fifty-five dead from heat. The carnage makes for a lot of abandoned corpses. “We buried two last year,” says David Ortiz, a justice of the peace in Dimmit County. Dimmit provides paupers’ graves for the unknown dead in a tiny cemetery a few miles from Carrizo Springs. There, the county’s longtime residents are buried in neat rows, under finely chiseled gravestones. Migrants are segregated at the other end of the field, under lumpy mounds and rickety metal signs, no bigger than index cards, marked with the dates they were found dead. No religious service accompanies these burials, which are done by Leonard’s, the local funeral home. Justice of the Peace Ortiz is grateful to Leonard’s for not charging, except for items like the long, army-green body bags that are used instead of coffins because they are cheap. Nearby Maverick County whose big city is Eagle Pass faces the same identification and disposal problems as Dimmit County. In June, two would-be crossers drowned in Maverick while trying to ford the Rio Grande. Their personal effects and IDs washed away in the river. Across South Texas, identification has become problematic in ways too revolting for the press to report frankly. Nor do the people who deal with the bodies like to talk about it. “They look really, really bad,” was the terse comment from a funeral home worker who asked for anonymity. “In this 100-degree-plus heat, they decompose very, very rapidly. The ones this summer have been horrible.” Bodies don’t last two days in summer, says Ortiz. What is left is “sometimes mostly bones,” resulting from animals such as coyotes, javelinas, and buzzards dragging the remains around. Ortiz remembers Daniel Alan Maldonado, from Mexico. “We found him July 18. He had been dragged to the ranch road, and by the time he was discovered, he was in pieces” Often, says Ortiz, people like Maldonado “sit by a tree to kind of cool off, and that’s where they die. We followed the trail back to a tree and found his wallet right quick.” The Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector press officer, Paty Mancha, has been working with families trying to identify their relatives. “We had one body,” she says, “that was so decomposed that they assumed it was a man. It turned out to be a woman. That was determined by an autopsy. But a lot of counties don’t have money for autopsies.” A The Border Patrol at Cotulla Diana Claitor University of Houston sociologist Nestor Rodriguez has his own story about the unidentified and the lack of effort or money to give them names. As head of the university’s Center for Immigration, Rodriguez co-authored a research project published last year. It tabulated 1,185 migrant deaths between 1993 and 1996 on average, six victims per week. But these deaths were only in counties touching the border. That doesn’t include the twenty corpses from Texas’ Kenedy County in 1996. It wouldn’t encompass the eighteen there in 1997, nor the ten so far this year, because Kenedy doesn’t abut the international line. Nor does Brooks County \(Fa1furrias is its major represent overflow from Kenedy, where the Border Patrol is on a mission to block the terrain around Highway 77 from immigrant passage. Dimmit County, too where Juan Carlos Bravo was found misses the body count by a few miles. Furthermore, the University of Houston study has no way of accounting for the unknown number of bodies that have never been found. Since he published his research, Rodriguez has gotten calls from people whose family members have disappeared migrating to the United States. Some ask him to help find their loved ones. Recently, Rodriguez searched for a Guatemalan who vanished a few years ago. A friend of the missing man remembered reading in a Matamoros newspaper that he drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande. So, remembers Rodriguez, “I go down to Brownsville and talk to the sheriff’s office and look at the records of the unknown.” On the border, though, records of the migrant dead are not centralized, and the missing Guatemalan’s name didn’t come up. It didn’t appear in the U.S. newspapers either, though they did mention an unidentified man who drowned at the same time the Guatemalan disappeared. In Matamoros, Rodriguez found two news items about the drowning, including the fact that Brownsville authorities fished the body from the river. Also, the Mexican press published the victim’s name the same name as the Guatemalan’s even though the U.S. papers and police described him as “unknown.” Rodriguez went to the 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 25, 1998