Crossing the southern border into the United States is a dangerous, sometimes deadly journey. And it’s not much easier for the families and loved ones left behind. As immigrants risk death from dehydration and other elements, their families may never learn what came of them. A group of anthropologists are trying to give families closure through a searchable, online database of the items left behind by migrants.
Fusion reports that Dr. Lori Baker of Baylor University has teamed up with the Texas Observer to create the database. They are currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Beacon called I have a name/Yo tengo nombre to raise $20,000 by November 7. The funds will allow them to post photos of the items found with unidentified remains, create an app that makes the database searchable, and invest the time that this project deserves.
Texas’ Brooks County reaches 100 degrees in the summer regularly, and this area – 70 miles away from Mexico – is a crossing point for those emigrating from Central America. In 2013, Border Patrol documented the deaths of 445 immigrants trying to cross Death Valley, according to NBC News. Local authorities are supposed to collect DNA to send to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, but it comes with a $2,000/body cost that this area cannot afford.
Since 2013, Dr. Baker and a group of experts and volunteers have found the remains of 120 bodies. “Nobody cares about dead immigrants,” Dr. Baker said. “They’re invisible when they’re alive, and they’re even more invisible when they’re dead.”
Though this project is a start, there are still many bodies that have not been dug up. Read more about Dr. Baker’s work at Fusion.