In June 2014, in a small city in southern Texas, forensic anthropologists disinterred human remains from 52 burial plots. Alarmingly, the researchers seemed to have discovered what the Los Angeles Times would later describe as “mass graves.” And underneath the earth, they found dozens of unidentified bodies.
The city of Falfurrias, where the graves were found, is a poor, shrinking settlement, known for its sprawling ranches. Home to fewer than 5,000 inhabitants as of 2010, Falfurrias is the administrative seat of Brooks County – a sparsely populated constituency covering 944 square miles.
And while Brooks County is not located immediately on the Mexican border – in fact, it is dozens of miles away – it has nevertheless become a busy corridor for undocumented migrants. In order to avoid detection by the Highway 281 Border Patrol checkpoint, many take their chances traversing the county’s ranchland; while doing so, however, individuals often perish.