Immigrants' deadly route into America

FALFURRIAS, Texas -- Summer arrived in Brooks County, Texas, with its usual, unforgiving glare and with it, has come the recovery of bodies: illegal immigrants who succumbed to 100-degree heat in the mesquite covered ranchland.

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Brooks County chief deputy Benny Martinez
Brooks County chief deputy Benny Martinez tracks immigrant deaths. "They're not equipped for the journey. They're told that it's quick; they're told that it's easy. Not with this weather, not with this terrain."

Thirty-seven bodies have been found in Brooks County so far this year.

Martinez tracks the deaths in a binder. He says for every body that he finds, there are at least five more out there.

The deaths are the result of a surge of illegal immigrants crossing into Texas that has been building over the last five years. National Guard helicopters with infrared cameras can spot them, but border agents can only capture so many.

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In Brooks County, smugglers bypass a federal checkpoint by making immigrants walk around it, through private ranches. More than 300 bodies have been found in the brush since 2011.

These areas are remote, but the signs of a well-worn path are all around. Water bottles, toiletries, bags even clothes indicate a stop along the way.

One of the stops is on a 13,000 acre ranch managed by Lavoyger Durham. He says at least 15 to 20 people stop there a week.

Durham installed a water station, hoping to prevent more deaths.

"I'm not aiding them, no, I'm just trying to save some lives," he says.

But last month, he found two bodies, a clear sign traffic isn't slowing down.

Martinez says, "They're going to keep coming; as long as this immigration reform issue doesn't have closure to it, they're just going to keep coming."

Deputies expect the death toll to keep rising. They have recovered four bodies in the last two weeks and the hottest months are still ahead.

  • Manuel Bojorquez

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