A Texas legislator says the cemetery where a series of mass graves of unidentified immigrants were found is a crime scene and asked the Department of Public Safety to secure it.
Texas Rangers scheduled a meeting with local officials for Monday to determine how the situation should be handled, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported.
Hundreds of undocumented immigrants have died of dehydration, exposure and illness in Brooks County trying to avoid Border Patrol checkpoints as they trek for 30 miles or more through unforgiving landscapes in temperatures of 100 degrees or more, the Caller-Times reported.
“There is no doubt that a crime has taken place, and we need to protect the site to prevent any evidence from being damaged, tampered with or destroyed,” Democratic Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg said in a weekend statement. “Just as important, we need to send the message to the world that in our state, we do not stain the honor of loved ones who have passed away.”
Researchers said they had exhumed 52 bodies earlier this month at Sacred Heart Burial Park. It was unclear, however, how many bodies were in the graves because remains were intermingled.
Anthropologist Lori Baker of Baylor University said they found more than one person in a body bag, bones buried in trash bags and loose bones. One-hundred-10 bodies were exhumed last year as part of the project. A third section of the cemetery was to be examined next year.
“I was pretty upset at the end, because this isn’t the way to be interred,” Baker told the Los Angeles Times Saturday. “The idea that all along the border there are these people buried anonymously is horrible. This isn’t even the worst we’ve seen, and it has to stop.”
The bodies were supposed to be buried in fiberboard coffins but Baker said the researchers so far have found no evidence any were used.
County officials said Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams has been handling the burial of unidentified immigrants for as long as they can remember. They say the uncovered remains had been placed in the cemetery from 2005 to 2012.
“I know we share the same frustration, shock, and disbelief that something so horrific could transpire in our own backyard,” Canales said in his request for a criminal investigation.