The issue of illegal immigration in Texas usually focuses on the millions who end up living and working in communities around the state, but border regions are having an increasingly difficult time dealing with the illegals that don't make it. "Sometimes there are as many as 600 or 700 a year that we lose primarily in the hot summer months when they try to cross the desert and they're just not prepared," says Curtis Collier with U.S. Border Watch. In Brooks County alone, the remains of 129 illegal immigrants were found last year alone. Most are found dead of hunger, thirst, heat stroke, or exhaustion while trekking through desolate areas.
The growing numbers of dead migrants are causing a strain for the landowners and residents of border areas. "It's a cost burden to those small communities down there," says Collier. "They're vast areas with small populations, which means a very small tax base, and it's very challenging for these counties to deal with this in a moral and respectful way." Many of the bodies just end up in local cemeteries with generic labels on the graves. Collier says the federal government doesn't provide much help to these communities, either. In fact, U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints actually make the problem worse. "Unfortunately coyotes (smugglers) will often try to lead people around those checkpoints and into more desolate areas," says Collier.
Another major contributor to the problem is those so-called "coyotes" or smugglers, who often bring groups of illegals over the border, only to drop them off in remote areas leaving the migrants to fend for themselves. Collier admits there is no easy solution, but says it starts with fully securing the border. "As long as we still allow people to cross the Rio Grande River and the southern border of this country, we're going to have losses in the desert, there is no doubt about it."