A project of the Center for Community Change

They Die in Brooks County

Thanks to Veronica at Hola for sharing this poignant and thoroughly researched post from the Texas Observer. In the view of the author- as Border Security budgets burst and new enforcement methods are ratcheted up, south texas becomes a graveyard for the unlucky and the weak. We must shine the light on the human consequences of our border enforcement.

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.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to do this. I’d spend $120,000 if I had to because it’s the right thing to do,” Ramirez said in his modest office on Allen Street in Falfurrias (population 5,020), the county seat. “But we could be helping more of our own.” About a third of Brooks residents live below the poverty line; average household income is $21,000; jobs are just plain scarce. Read the rest at:  http://www.texasobserver.org/article.php?aid=2509  

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