The Spanish-language Univision televison network normally ignores stories about the costs that illegal immigration imposes on U.S. communities. It frames the story of illegal immigration as a melodrama in which the illegals have a right to come to the United States and demand full incorporation into American civic life.
But last week reporter Lourdes Del Rio reported two stories from Brooks County in South Texas that told of the county's struggles to pay the costs associated with the rising number of deaths among illegal immigrants who die while attempting to evade the Border Patrol.
"Last year the number of cadavers in the area reached 129, double the number from the year before," said Del Rio. She explained that the deaths occur among those who seek to walk around the Border Patrol checkpoint on Highway 281 near Falfurrias, hoping to reach a rendezvous point with a vehicle north of town.
Falfurrias is about 70 miles north of the border and sits astride a major smuggling corridor. The deaths usually occur when the immigrants, who often pay thousands of dollars to smuggling organizations, cannot keep up with the groups that hike across hot, sandy, and sparsely vegetated rangeland. They fall behind, dying gruesome deaths from hyperthermia and dehydration.
Brooks County Judge Raul Ramirez said costs for the county are particularly high when the deceased immigrants cannot be identified and turned over to the consulates of their home countries. In these cases, the total cost for recovery, autopsy, and burial is about $1,380 for each person.
Judge Ramirez explained that because Brooks County is not on the border, it receives none of the federal impact aid that is designated for border counties. Clearly frustrated by the rising toll in human suffering and costs to the county, he told Del Rio. "This is a situation we have had for years, but never at the level we have now reached."