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Forensic Anthropologists Identify Undocumented Immigrants
Forensic anthropologists identify deceased undocumented immigrants by studying personal effects and bodily remains.
Forensic anthropologist Tracy Van Deest holds a skeleton while taking an inventory of bones from a deceased immigrant at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner on Dec. 9, in Tucson, Ariz.
Forensic anthropologists attempt to identify the deceased by studying personal effects and bodily remains. Most are from undocumented immigrants, many of whom died of dehydration while crossing illegally into the U.S. from Mexico.
Human remains in body bags lie in the refrigerated morgue at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner. The center currently has 90 bodies and on average receives 176 per year. Most of the deceased are found by ranchers and Border Patrol agents. Identified remains are repatriated, along with personal items, to their home countries, and the others will be cremated.
Personal items from a deceased individual are kept in a sealed bag. The items were found on the decomposed remains of a male discovered in the Arizona desert in 2014.
A letter to a loved one, money and other items are kept in a sealed bag of personal effects. The items were found on the decomposed remains of a male discovered in the Arizona desert on Oct. 9.
A ring was found on the skeletal and mummified remains of a woman found in the Arizona desert on June 6, 2014.
A lighter reading "Vatos Forever," Mexican slang for Dudes Forever, was found with the decomposed remains of a person found in the Arizona desert on Aug. 1.
Coins and a crucifix were found with the skeletal remains of a person found in the Arizona desert on Sept. 12.
Money from Guatemala and Mexico, along with other items were found on a "fully fleshed" body of a man who an examiner determined to have died of "environmental heat exposure." The body was discovered in the Arizona desert on June 10.