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Texas county using mobile morgue amid recovery of 98 migrant bodies; NYT says ‘highest toll in nearly a decade’ along border

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Officials in a Texas county near the Mexico border have set up a mobile morgue for dead migrants, with the number discovered this year so far nearly three times as high as last year amid a massive influx of illegal crossings.

The presence of the morgue was reported online by independent journalist Ali Bradley, who included video from inside showing row after row of migrants stacked on the left and right.

“Brooks Co. is 40 miles from the border & has an influx of migrant bodies as they circumvent Hwy. 281 checkpoint. TX setup a mobile morgue—It’s holding 27 migrant bodies. Sheriff [Commander] Esparza tells me on [average] they recover 50-60 migrant bodies. Last year: 34. This year: 98 already,” Bradley wrote in a Twitter post containing the video clip.

In a second post, she included a photo of the mobile morgue from the outside.

“This is the outside of the mobile morgue in Brooks Co. Commander Esparza tells me the migrants are dropped off by smugglers to get around the checkpoint and end up getting lost or left in the rural ranch lands in the county and succumb to the elements,” she wrote.

“Commander Esparza tells me some of the migrant bodies are so badly decomposed they are nearly impossible to identify— A body may be in that unit for months before a family member can be connected to them,” Bradley reported.

Bradley also posted a live video on her Facebook page in which she interviewed Esparza and went inside the morgue.

Commander Esparza told Bradley he expected the number of migrant deaths to increase in the coming days and weeks because hunting season is approaching and sportsmen and ranchers out for game often find bodies.

Separately, The New York Times reported in August that by then, Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents collectively had encountered more than 380 dead migrants, “the highest toll in nearly a decade, and one already far surpassing the 253 recovered in the previous fiscal year.”

One sheriff, Oscar E. Carrillo of Culberson County, the southern-most tip of which touches the Mexico border, has been forced to deploy a “corpse trolley” after finding so many more bodies this year than in years past.

“It’s so we don’t have to hand-carry the remains anymore,” he told the Times. “I used to request regular stuff like bulletproof vests. Now I’m asking for more body bags.”

The paper noted that there isn’t a single system in place to track the deaths of migrants who crossed illegally into the U.S. and succumbed to the desert heat or some other cause; the aforementioned figure comes only from those discovered by federal border agents and does not include the number of bodies discovered this year so far by county and state law enforcement officials. Also, the paper noted that bodies are sometimes not discovered for years.

And the deaths are not just occurring in Texas. As illegal crossings spike all along the U.S.-Mexico border since President Joe Biden reversed many of his predecessor’s enforcement policies on his first day in office, law enforcement officials in other states are finding a higher number of migrant bodies as well.

The Times reported that 127 migrant remains had been discovered in Arizona by the end of July, up from 96 last year; at various points along the Tex-Mex border, authorities have been finding more bodies than in previous years as well.

Social media users voiced their opinions of the uptick in gruesome discoveries, with some blaming the Biden administration.

Jon Dougherty

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