Monthly Archives: May 2015

Identifying The Nameless: Advancing The Science Of Human Decomposition To Identify Deceased Migrants

Forensic anthropologist Kate Spradley holds the shirt of a deceased Salvadoran migrant. The shirt's discovery set off a chain of events that ended with the successful but rare DNA confirmation of a migrant who perished in Texas after crossing the U.S.- Mexico border. (Lorne Matalon)

Forensic anthropologist Kate Spradley holds the shirt of a deceased Salvadoran migrant. The shirt’s discovery set off a chain of events that ended with the successful but rare DNA confirmation of a migrant who perished in Texas after crossing the U.S.- Mexico border. (Lorne Matalon)

A version of this two-part story aired on the Texas Standard, KUT Austin

Part One

Part Two

SAN MARCOS, Texas — Brooks County, Texas, — 70 miles north of the United States-Mexico border — has seen at least 365 migrant deaths since 2011.

Forensic anthropologists in Texas and Arizona are working to identify these migrants and repatriate their remains.

Behind an electronic gate accessed by a key card on a bucolic farm in central Texas, 100 cadavers donated for research by U.S. citizens lie on the ground in different stages of decomposition.

Forensic anthropologist Kate Spradley heads a relatively new project called Operation ID at Texas State University’s Forensic Anthropology Center.

Markers once tied to deceased migrants' bodies form a makeshift graveyard. The markers note what clues were gleaned after the bodies were discovered. (Kate Spradley)

Markers once tied to deceased migrants’ bodies form a makeshift graveyard. The markers note what clues were gleaned after the bodies were discovered. (Kate Spradley)

“When someone dies on U.S. soil, it is our responsibility to identify that person,” she said while walking in the shade where cadavers lay on the ground, protected by metal screens.

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Health Risks Of Living In US Border Colonias Prompt Funding Increase Proposal

A water storage bucket near Presidio, Texas. The Texas Secretary of State said 38,000 Texans living in border settlements known as colonias have no running water. The Obama administration proposes that the four border states receiving federal funding for low income housing increase the amount those states spend for colonia improvement. (Lorne Matalon)

A water storage bucket near Presidio, Texas. The Texas Secretary of State said 38,000 Texans living in border settlements known as colonias have no running water. The Obama administration proposes that the four border states receiving federal funding for low income housing increase the amount those states spend for colonia improvement. (Lorne Matalon)

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A version of this story also aired on the Texas Standard from KUT Austin

Thousands of mostly poor Hispanic people live in border communities called colonias with no access to running water or electricity.

Now, the Obama administration wants the four border states that receive federal funds for colonia improvement to increase spending there by 50 percent.

The announcement comes as scientists say potential health consequences of living in colonias are too severe to ignore.

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Mexican Venture Capital Seeks Gold In Rubble Of Oil Downturn

The growing number of oil rigs pulled in from the oilfield and stored in this lot in Odessa, Texas, is a testament to the steep decline in the price of crude oil in the last year. (Lorne Matalon)

The growing number of oil rigs pulled in from the oilfield and stored in this lot in Odessa, Texas, is a testament to the steep decline in the price of crude oil in the last year. (Lorne Matalon)

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ODESSA, Texas — Mexican venture capital is hovering over distressed energy companies in the Permian Basin of Texas, the nation’s highest-producing oil field.

Those companies — including oil and gas drillers, and service companies — crafted budgets when the price of crude oil was $100 per barrel. It’s now in the $50 range. And those companies need capital that banks in the United States are sometimes reluctant to give in an oil downturn.

“This is a buyers’ market right now,” said Carlos Cantú, an investor from Juárez.

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