At the Side Door Cafe in Falfurrias, Texas, body counts enter conversations as naturally as the price of feed, or the cost of repairing torn fences. "I removed 11 bodies last year from my ranch, 12 the year before," said prominent local landowner Presnall Cage. "I found four so far this year." In total, the Border Patrol recorded 453 border deaths last year and a GAO report said recorded border deaths have doubled since 1995. It also said the Border Patrol may be producing an undercount. No one knows, of course, how many die without leaving recoverable remains.
Besides those who die crossing the border, a far greater number are facing uncertain fates from the United States immigration system. Entire families, including those with small children, are held at the T. Don Hutto detention facility, a private Texas prison that was intended to be closed for lack of occupancy until the site was revived as a result of new immigration enforcement policies. In April, the U.S. denied a UN human rights official access to inspect this facility and another jail in New Jersey.
Others find themselves at the mercy of a Kafkaesque immigration system, such as Yaderlin Jimenez, whose husband has been missing since his unit was attacked in Iraq on May 12. Even after the Department of Homeland security dropped deportation proceedings against her after he was declared MIA, she remains in legal limbo. She has reason to fear: Just a few months after an Army soldier died in Iraq and was buried with full military honors, his father was deported as an undocumented immigrant. Like a vast number of others, Yaderlin is left with no legal remedy, and only the hope the government will do something decent