This article was originally published by Dr. Sharon Schuetz on Lady Patriots in 2014.
This is no movie plot or thriller. It’s sad reality taking place along the Texas border in a county who has been dubbed “the killing fields” by some in the media. I just returned from Falfurrias, TX, and what I found there was troubling. This once peaceful and prosperous community has become the front lines in a war on America that most people don’t want to admit is happening. I had the opportunity to spend time with four Brooks County leaders who each had their own story to tell.
THE LOCAL NEWSPAPER:
At the local newspaper, The Falfurrias Facts, I met with reporter and Ad Manager, Juanita Olivarez who gave me the first glimpse of the suffering the Obama Administration’s immigration policies have caused them. While she wasn’t excited about being “interviewed” she was open and friendly and wanted me to understand what Brooks County has been going through since Obama’s backdoor amnesty hit America, bringing thousands of people across their desert ranches where many die on the journey. In June some unidentifiable bodies were found in the local cemetery causing a media frenzy and accusations of callously burying people in garbage bags in a mass grave.
Olivera was visibly upset when she talked about the way the media portrayed them. The news of bodies discovered in the Catholic cemetery traveled at the speed of light. Terms like “grisly discovery,” “demanding answers,” “fraudulent act” were freely thrown around by the media. A quick google search of “mass graves in Texas” leads to dozens of news outlets that jumped on this story and consequently many of those jumped to conclusions without knowing the facts.
While I was in the newspaper office, Gabriel, another newspaper employee, showed me a 5-page memorandum from the District Attorney’s office from the Texas Rangers. Unfortunately, I had to return the document, but they allowed me to read its contents. It discussed the burial and costs involved in disposing of the bodies found scattered across the desert and that could not be identified. They were buried at the county’s expense. It said that they had done an investigation and found nothing wrong with the way the county disposed of the remains. There were no laws broken and under the circumstances there was little else they could do.
Brooks County has procedures and protocols that must be followed when it finds a body. It is expensive, and the county has to pay all the bills. Because the county is not directly on the border, it is denied federal help, even though the federal government initiated the problems that have such a negative impact on the residents. There is simply too much demand on an overworked, completely broke, and abused county that is doing the best it can with the hand it has been dealt. Juanita Olivarez explained:
“Those bodies were mostly bones that were found out in the desert in pieces. Sometimes more than one person would be found together, where animals had already eaten them and spread the bones as much as a mile or more away. There is just no way that we can identify every person who dies here. The only way we can positively identify them is through DNA, and we simply don’t have the resources to do that. “
Brooks County had struggled to make ends meet before this immigration push started. Now it has to pick up the tab on every person found dead in the vast 30 mile stretch of desert between Encino and Falfurrias, the harsh wasteland where smugglers leave illegals with a bottle of water and a promise to pick them up on the other side. They do this to avoid the Border Patrol station 17 miles south of Falfurrias. People are dropped off in groups to walk the long way around the check-point, and many get lost and walk in circles in the desert until they just can’t go any further. When someone gets sick or hurt, the group will just leave them behind with the promise that someone will return for them. That is often the last anyone sees of them until a rancher comes upon their bodies or notices vultures circling them and discovers their partially eaten remains.
A LOCAL RANCHER:
At the Whataburger, over a glass of iced tea, local rancher, John Dawson, told me that he had found three bodies on his ranch. One was just bones and had been dead a while. The other two had not been dead long, but it was obvious that animals had been eating them. He can’t keep fences up because illegals tear them down to cross his ranch. Shortly after he joined a group of ranchers working with the Border Patrol someone poured sand into his tractor engine. He said he didn’t know for sure, but suspected it was retaliation for his involvement in the Border Patrol efforts.
His eyes grew distant as he told me stories of destruction of property and the heartache he and other ranchers are experiencing while as many as 150 illegal aliens cross their property a day, destroying fences, leaving trash, and sometimes the weaker travelers to die alone in the desert.
After I drove away to find some lunch, John called to share one more story that happened on his ranch when one of his ranch hands went out to check on fences. When he finished his work, he returned to his pickup to find two men trying to start it. With the element of surprise, the ranch hand managed to get his truck back from the illegals who ran further into the desert. The Border Patrol picked them up several hours later after searching for them by helicopter.
A JUSTICE OF THE PEACE:
Judge Oralia V. (Lali) Morales is one of four Justice of the Peace who are required to view the bodies and pronounce them dead. Because some of the other JPs have health issues, she is often called on to do this thankless task without any protection, either from the dangerous elements or diseases. She was very open and explained that she has to go out into the desert, often walking long distances with little protection. She shared many of her experiences of trips through the desert to view gruesome remains. I saw pictures and autopsy reports of children who were left to die in the grueling heat, sometimes with an empty water bottle close by.
One of the most-heartbreak deaths was a small framed 17-year-old boy from Xochihuehetlan, Guerrero, Mexico, who fell face forward and died within a few feet of making it to the highway. I saw a picture of him taken before he made this deadly trip. He looked like a normal 17-year-old from Anywhere, USA. In the next picture, his brown face was black, and his skin looked leathered as if he had been in the oven. The cause of death was hypothermia, a diagnosis made on many of the victims found in this rough country.
These people are under a lot of pressure and have been for way too long. Equipment like safe trucks to get to the bodies, protective body covering, boots to protect from snake bites, and many necessities must be provided by the employees of this financially depressed community, who themselves have no medical insurance and had to take a 3% pay cut, making them bring homeless each month than many of us do a week.
While they were never rich, Brooks County could pay their bills and afford a few of the nice things most counties do for their residents. Now they have to pay the $2,295 to transport and autopsy each body they pull out of the desert. The federal government refuses to help them because, according to them, Brooks County isn’t a “border” county. What they fail to admit is that the busiest Border Patrol station in Texas is at Encino, in southern Brooks County. Falfurrias is the main artery for the thousands of illegal aliens who enter Texas.
THE SHERIFF’S CHIEF DEPUTY:
Chief Deputy, Benny Martinez, from the Brooks County Sheriff’s Department, spoke with me for quite a while. As of Friday, August 8th the County had recovered 44 bodies for the year 2014, and a total of 427 from 2009 to 2013. He told me that for each body they discover that there are 5 to ten more that are never found, which means that there could be as many as 440 this year, and 4,270 from 2009 to 2013.
Many of these people were children who had been promised a brighter future, only to die in the harsh reality that they had believed a lie that cost them their lives and cost Brooks County its resources and peace of mind.
On June 10th Judge Morales and Deputy Chief Benny Martinez met with the Mexican Consulate to discuss the deaths of illegal crossers in Brooks County and protocol which is used to handle them. There were a few changes made, but the Mexican government offered no financial help. The Falfurrias Facts reported that as of the end of May transportation and autopsies alone cost the county $682,000. Judge Lali Morales was quoted in the local newspaper:
“Even though we have worked diligently to bring our costs down, Brooks County still pays approximately $2,200 ($2,295) per body.”
The Sacred Heart Burial Park, where the county had buried the unidentifiable bodies is a small cemetery. While the county is responsible for the cost associated with each body they find, with no help from the government, they have done a remarkable job. The media hype around the discovery of the bodies in this cemetery has been another slap in the face of a community forced to do everything with nothing. While the media hyped the discovery, and made Falfurrias, TX appear heartless, only two or three of these same media outlets even mentioned that they were later cleared of any wrong doing.
Judge Morales sadly told me that Brooks County wasn’t “lucky” like McAllen. When I asked for an explanation, she said:
“In McAllen they see the people, including children, who are alive and anticipate a new life in the USA. Here in Brooks County we see their dead bodies after they have been here for a while.”
The Unidentified Bodies in Brooks County TX