‘PVC cemetery’: Border residents upset over ‘inhuman’ burial for unidentified migrants

Memorial Funeral Chapel is the only funeral home in Maverick Co picking up bodies, county officials said

More than 12 unidentified migrants, including a baby, are buried in a corner lot of an Eagle Pass cemetery where some of the burial sites are sunken.

EAGLE PASS, Texas – A video originally posted on TikTok continues to make its rounds across social media, with more than 15,000 likes and 1,800 shares, so far.

@middlegafemalefirearms

The medical examiner’s office in Webb County Texas is full, and the funeral homes in Maverick County/Eagle Pass Texas can’t take any more bodies, so they are burying their unembalmed bodies in Graves and making PVC pipe crosses. So if their families are able to locate the bodies then they can exhume them and send their bodies home. The small funeral homes can’t afford the extra freezers. They are unable to embalm them because they have to have a medical exam first. You can actually smell the bodies. 🥲 again, this is so the truth can be known about this humanitarian crisis! #texas #eaglepasstx #fyp #foryou #mexico #human #riogrande #safety

♬ original sound - Tori Rogers

However, it has left viewers shocked and concerned about if what they saw online is legal.

The video was recorded in mid-August at the Maverick County Cemetery. It shows sunken graves, “John Doe” temporary markers and PVC “crosses” for more than a dozen unidentified migrants.

Although the video caption claims the Webb County Medical Examiner’s Office is at capacity, the county’s public information officer could not confirm the information, citing that the medical examiner is out of the office.

The temporary markers show the logo of Memorial Funeral Chapel, and public records show Rito Valdez III is tied to the business’s operations. On multiple occasions, KSAT 12 tried to reach out to the owner to set up an interview. Initially, we were told by employees that Valdez would be out of town for the rest of the week. However, that was not the case.

On Wednesday afternoon, just after noon, Valdez was seen walking out of the funeral home.

KSAT photojournalist Sal Salazar captured when Valdez deflected questions from reporter Alicia Barrera.

“We’re trying to get some information regarding the (dubbed) ‘PVC cemetery’,” Barrera said.

“(I) can’t talk,” Valdez said. “You can call the county judge.”

Valdez forcefully closed the funeral home door and rushed into an office.

On multiple occasions, Valdez is heard on video denying ties to the operations of Memorial Funeral Chapel.

“I’m not the owner, ma’am,” Valdez said.

“Then, can you identify yourself in relation to this funeral home and county?” Barrera questioned.

“Let me call the police,” Valdez said.

Minutes later, an Eagle Pass Police Department officer arrived on the property. According to the officer, Valdez said he was being bothered.

“He’s stating that his lawyers said not to mention -- said not to do any interviews regarding that,” the officer said.

Maverick County Judge David Saucedo confirmed that Valdez’s business plays a role in retrieving and burying bodies of undocumented immigrants.

“The agreement that the county has is with all of the funeral homes in Maverick County,” Saucedo said. “Right now, Memorial Funeral Chapel is the only one that is picking them up.”

Those that live near the county cemetery said the burials of bodies began in mid-August. Since then, more than a dozen bodies of unidentified migrants have been buried, including a baby.

On Thursday afternoon, county employees at the cemetery said the PVC “crosses” would be replaced with metal ones.

“Commissioner’s court voted an item that accepted a contribution from a local individual to put metal markers,” Saucedo said.

Saucedo was asked why the proposal was accepted.

“I believe it’s a humanitarian thing,” he said.

However, Saucedo fears space in the cemetery will soon reach capacity.

“We’ve never had the amount of (undocumented immigrants) passing away that we’ve had,” Saucedo said.

Eagle Pass remains the epicenter of immigrant crossings.

“Last Thursday, I signed an emergency order, and then I brought it to Commissioners Court to be ratified,” Saucedo said. “We’re going to start using reefers to store some of the bodies, because we don’t have anywhere to bury them anymore.”

It remains unclear what the identification process will be, if any, for the migrants buried at Maverick County Cemetery.

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About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.