Inside Texas' 'Death Valley' for Migrants

Brooks County has recovered 37 bodies this year
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2014 12:44 PM CDT
Inside Texas' 'Death Valley' for Migrants
A marker with "Unknown Male" marks the grave of an unidentified immigrant, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, at a cemetery in Falfurrias, Texas.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Border officials in Texas' Brooks County pray for rain to keep the heat down—and, as the chief deputy says, "to keep the body count down." "I really do pray for rain every day," he tells NBC News. Known by ranchers as "Death Valley," Brooks County lies some 70 miles north of the US-Mexico border, yet it's a crossing point for many undocumented migrants from Central America. Border Patrol documented some 445 migrant deaths last year, yet 37 bodies have already been recovered in Brooks County this year. "And it's fair to say every one we recover, we are missing five or 10."

On top of the heat, the area features harsh terrain. "If you don't have a compass or guide, you're not gonna get out," says a reserve deputy. One Guatemalan man who surrendered in Brooks County this week says he paid $3,000 for a trip smugglers said would take two hours of walking. Instead, he was "left for dead" for three days in the brush. "I couldn't hold on," he says. "Bit by bit people were getting left behind." Those who do make the journey must be really lucky or "have God with them," he says. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, an immigrant is eight times more likely to die sneaking into the country today compared to a decade ago. (More immigration stories.)

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