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There's an increase in immigrant bodies found in Brooks County

Over the past 23 years, the Border Patrol has counted over 3,200 migrant deaths in South Texas.

BROOKS COUNTY, Texas — Brooks County Sheriff Deputies have discovered the body of a woman in the western part of the county. Officials said she was found on the Los Palos Ranch between County Roads 107 and 108. 

Deputies believe she is from El Salvador and was left behind by a group of immigrants making their way through the brush. The woman is the 36th immigrant found dead so far this year in Brooks County out in the brush.

The Sheriff’s Department said it has now handled more immigrant deaths in the first five months of this year than it did in all of last year.

The 35th immigrant has died Thursday. The man’s brother is also missing and may be dead, too. y. Another immigrant called 911 Thursday afternoon saying they were lost in the brush and a rescue effort is now underway.

"I have one deputy who actually goes out there and that’s after we get information from family members that gives us some type of coordinates or some type of location," Sheriff Benny Martinez said.

It’s a gruesome reminder of why Brooks County is known as the desert of the dead. The remains of over 800 immigrants have been located there over the past 10 years. That after those desperate folks tried walking through this hot, dry and snake infested area to avoid the Falfurrias Border Patrol checkpoint.

"We are in the middle of it all it," Martinez said. "Always filters through here so that’s one thing we have to deal with and we’re doing it along with border patrol.” 

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Over the past 23 years, the Border Patrol has counted over 3,200 migrant deaths in South Texas. Those folks may have died from dehydration, heat exhaustion or hypothermia. 

Also, a number ended up drowning in the Rio Grande. But they’re only counted if their bodies wash up on the US side.  

So how many immigrants have actually died out in the brush over the years here in Brooks County? 

"I’ve always said that for every body we pick up, we are probably missing five,” Martinez added.

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That would mean that there could be some 3,600 remains of immigrants still out here in this desert. And the fear of dying is not slowing down the illegal smuggling operations. 

The sheriff said his department is still seeing up to four pursuits a day. Those they catch are eventually released, except for the smuggler.

”It’s more like a catch and release type right now," Martinez said. 

"The ones we are trying to put in jail are the smugglers. The drivers, the coyote, those who were smuggling the people, those are the ones we're after the rest just get processed and then they’ll get released."

The sheriff said he expects the number of immigrant deaths to continue to rise this year as the human smugglers show no signs of slowing down their operations.

For the latest updates on coronavirus in the Coastal Bend, click here.

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