FALFURRIAS -- Governor Rick Perry is calling unaccompanied children risking their lives to cross the border a major catastrophe waiting to happen with the summer season starting in Texas.
But in Brooks County, Baylor University professor Lori Baker says the consequences of making that dangerous trek has been apparent for awhile. For 11 years, she has dedicated her life to identify the remains of illegal immigrants found along the border.
KENS 5 followed Baker and her student volunteers in Falfurrias at the Sacred Heart Burial Park. Over the years, Brooks County officials buried the remains of immigrants found on ranch land.
What we're finding in this area is that most of the coffins have disintegrated. So, there's nothing protecting the remains. So, we have to make sure we go extremely slow so we don't cause any damage, said Baker.
After the deceased immigrants are uncovered, several universities help create biological profiles.
We do split the remains with several universities that do forensic analysis. The vast majority of them go to Texas State University. We take a sub-set to the University of Indianapolis forensic and archaeology laboratory and another set goes to Baylor University as well, said Krista Latham, professor of biology and anthropology University of Indianapolis.
Baker gets help from college students who pay out of pocket to travel and volunteer their time. She figures she'll need all the help she can get to identify the remains. Roughly 54 thousand unaccompanied minors have been arrested since October for illegally entering the United States. She expects a spike of dead children.
In Texas we don't have any landmarks. At best we have scrub oaks. One of the deputies that's a volunteer deputy in the county said he went out and was lost. Because he just had no landmark to go by. He's just not used to that. He realized he was walking in circles when he thought was walking a straight line.That was just one day, said Baker.
Despite the risk of Texas' terrain, Baker says the parents of these children are forced to make heartbreaking choices.
There's conflict in El Salvador. There's violence in Mexico. These have become refugees 'cause they know that their children will die if they stay where they are. They know they could die if they come over here. So, one's a sure thing and one has a bit of hope at the end, said Baker.
Baker has helped more than 70 families since she started her program. There's no financial assistance available from the federal government for the forensic identification. Baker and the universities that assist her program pay for the costs.