Tuesday, 29 September 2015

New project aims to identify immigrant remains

The Texas Forensic Science Commission hosted a meeting in Edinburg on Monday to discuss efforts to better identify the bodies of undocumented immigrants who die while illegally crossing into the United States.

While many consider illegal immigration to be a federal issue, others claim it’s not that simple.

"It's a federal and it’s a state issue. The federal issue is immigration, but the state issue is the bodies are in our state," said Rep. Terry Canales.

In the last two years, 169 cases of human remains have been recovered in Brooks County, but only 4 have been identified.

"We're failing. We’re failing to identify these people; we're failing to bury them properly. The bottom line is we need to respect them in life and in death," Canales said.

It's why Canales made an amendment to Senate Bill 1287, which created the Rio Grande Identification Project.

“The forensics commission creating the best practice and a database of the collection of DNA from unidentified corpuses from 120 miles of the Rio Grande. So when you ask what does it do? Well, it basically creates what was never there," Canales said.

State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said the new system could help not only those from Mexico, but Texas as well.

"We've made a lot of progress through DNA, through coordination and cooperation. We now have a system in place that makes it a lot easier to find out who that person is and locate that person’s family – whether it is in Mexico, Central America or maybe even a missing person here in Texas," Hinojosa said.

While Hinojosa and Canales both said Texas is taking proactive steps to deal with the impact of illegal immigration, they said this is the next step in tackling the issue.

"America is such a beautiful place that people are flocking to be here. They are trying to cross here illegally; they are willing to risk life and death to get here because it’s such a great country. But us burying you in a mass grave or not being able to identify you, is not so great. So we're trying to not only admit our wrongs, but right them," Canales said.

The commission is funded by the state, but there are federal grants available to help with the costs, Canales said.

The Brooks County Sheriff's Office said its county spent $680,000 between 2009 and 2013 in recovering bodies.

Tuesday 29 September 2015



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