The dig started Sunday, a team of forensic students from Baylor University arrived at the Falfurrias city cemetery wearing white tee shirts. Before long, they were dressed in white protective suits, using shovels to dig up plywood boxes. They contain the remains of people found dead in the brush and on ranchland in Brooks County.
129 sets of remains were found here last year alone. That does not include the remains found in years past. When the county ran out of room to bury them in paupers graves, activists like Tom Power of Houston, took notice.
"It is indeed against the law to not provide DNA testing when remains are otherwise unidentifiable," Power said before he left Houston for south Texas. "Brooks County was not able to identify forty percent of bodies."
The task is crude, the approach respectful. Handlers lifted body bags out of the ground and onto white sheets. The bags are believed to contain the remains of undocumented immigrants who died trying to sneak past a nearby border patrol checkpoint.
They may have broken the law to get here, but Female 1193489 is someone's daughter, and activists want her identified and returned to her family.
"It's a tragedy and we believe it's a humanitarian crisis," said Maria Jimenez, Houston United.
This plot contains approximately 55 sets of human remains.
It is the first of four plots the Baylor team plans to unearth and take to a North Texas DNA lab. As the students worked, a mother whose own son vanished trying to get here called in to an activist in south Texas from California.
"For someone to be able to call and thank us, it just tells how much it meant to her," said Jennifer Husak, forensic student from Baylor.