The nation’s southern border has become a charnel house littered with unidentified migrant remains. Even as unauthorized immigration into the United States trends down or stays flat, the migrant death rate remains disproportionately high. The reason: Migrants perish as they hazard ever more treacherous, isolated terrain to avoid apprehension. As unidentified remains were collected and stored in massive refrigerators, families waited years for word of what happened to their missing relatives. The Colibrí Center for Human Rights, at the crossroads of cutting-edge science and human rights, seeks to help such families with its Missing Migrant Project. It takes detailed forensic reports from families; coordinates with nonprofit groups and forensic anthropologists; gathers, inputs and tracks data on the dead and missing on the entire U.S.-Mexico Border; and helps medical examiners identify the remains, which are often returned to families.
“Our work contests the statement that [migrant] lives don’t matter,” says executive director Robin Reineke. “We do that every day. We’re fighting for the lives of migrants through saying that they matter, and helping their families in their pursuit of claiming them as real people.”