South Texas lawmaker calls for inquiry into mass immigrant graves

AUSTIN Texas Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:12pm EDT

Related Topics

AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - A state senator from South Texas called on Saturday for an investigation into recently discovered mass graves containing the bodies of apparent illegal immigrants believed to have been buried by a funeral home paid by the local county government.

The grisly discovery - including one body that had been stuffed inside a kitchen garbage bag - was made by anthropologists at a cemetery in Falfurrias, Texas, 80 miles (130 km) from the state's southern border with Mexico.

"These people deserve a proper investigation and a proper burial," Senator Juan Hinojosa, a Democrat, told Reuters.

Hinojosa said he and the local district attorney would meet next week to request an inquiry by the Texas Rangers, the Texas Department of Public Safety's investigative arm.

The findings were first reported by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on Thursday.

Local authorities are launching their own investigation. They believe the bodies were buried by the Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams funeral home and are not anticipating criminal charges, said Brooks County Chief Deputy Sheriff Benny Martinez.

The county has paid the funeral home for at least 16 years to deal with the remains of immigrants who die as they cross on foot in the desert-like conditions, according to the Caller-Times.

A funeral home official told the Caller-Times the company would not confirm it was responsible for the burials. Calls by Reuters to the home were not returned on Saturday.

About 120 bodies of immigrants are found each year in Brooks County, Martinez said. Some 235,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended last year near the Mexican border with the United States, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Brooks County graves were found earlier this month by anthropologists working to identify immigrants who die on their way through Texas from Mexico. Officials have not determined how many bodies were in the graves.

The graves held body bags containing more than one body, corpses buried with no bags at all, and other remains that were missing limbs, the Caller-Times said.

The bodies are estimated to have been buried from 2005 to 2009, said Dr. Lori Baker, a forensic anthropologist at Baylor University and one of the researchers who discovered the graves. Her group, the International Consortium for Forensic Identification, is working to identify the bodies.

"These are all people," she said. "Their families deserve to know what happened to them. And they deserve human dignity."

(Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Editing by Curtis Skinner and Peter Cooney)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (6)
XiWhang wrote:
*”These people deserve a proper investigation and a proper burial,” Senator Juan Hinojosa, a Democrat, told Reuters.*

If they want a decent burial, they should have stayed in their homeland. Unbelievable that this stupid democrat, who probably has dual loyalty, thinks American CITIZENS should pay for the burial of invading interlopers.

Jun 21, 2014 9:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Hahahappy wrote:
If these people get killed like this in their homeland the noise from the US screaming for human rights would be deafening. But I guess its ok for the US to do what it wants, hey Xi. Sounds like an Asian name, hope your legal.

Jun 22, 2014 5:01am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Pawnmasta wrote:
If only our border patrol was empowered to use flamethrowers and .50 cal automatics at the border we could stop the influx of invaders tomorrow. This IS an invasion without a single shot being fired.

Jun 22, 2014 2:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus