The Brooks County Sheriff’s Office along with U.S. Border Patrol officials are reporting an alarming increase in illegal immigrant deaths this year.
Brooks County sheriff's have already recovered the remains of 83 illegal immigrants compared to last year’s total of 64.
“Every day, every day, last week, we were picking up two bodies a day,” said Deputy Luis Reyes.
In mid-August, three bodies were discovered in 24 hours, on three different ranches in Brooks County.
They are among the 150 percent increase in immigrant deaths in South Texas reported by U.S. Border Patrol, along with a “manageable” rise in apprehensions.
“Perhaps this is a change in tactics and techniques by smugglers,” said Enrique Mendiola, spokesperson for the agency’s Rio Grande Valley sector.
Mendiola said to avoid its checkpoint near Falfurrias, smugglers are taking larger groups through longer, more remote routes, increasing the risk many of them will not survive.
“These people are in for the money,” Reyes said. “They don’t care about human life.” Each time, the somber drill is the much the same.
Det. Danny Davila said it begins with either the sheriff’s office or Border Patrol being alerted by immigrants of someone they’ve left behind who has died or was in distress. He said it is an agonizing death, typically from dehydration and heat stroke. Davila said ranch hands also come upon the remains, often with buzzards overhead leading the way.
He said both agencies often respond, along with the mortician and the justice of the peace, who must examine the remains that are mummified, looking for clues to their identities.
“The javalinas, the coyotes, everything will really hit that body very quick and destroy it,” said Lavoyger Durham, a well known ranch manager in Brooks County.
Durham said even then, only 25 percent of those who die are ever found in “the killing fields of Brooks County.”
If their remains are recovered, Davila said they are turned over to a funeral home that attempts to locate family members with the help of foreign consulates.
Among the three bodies recovered in that recent 24-hour period was a teenager, buried overnight by his companions.
“We had to uncover the grave and get him out,” said Rey Rodriguez, Brooks County Sheriff. “Looked like a young male, no ID.”