WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
27 Sep 2021 | Podcast

Missing in Brooks County: A tragic outcome of U.S. border and migration policy

Since the 1990s, tens of thousands of migrants have died painful deaths, usually of dehydration and exposure, on U.S. soil. Their remains are only occasionally found. The migrants began taking ever more hazardous routes after the Clinton and subsequent administrations started building up border-security infrastructure and Border Patrol presence in more populated areas.

The crisis is particularly acute in a sparsely populated county in south Texas, about 70 miles north of the border, where migrants’ smugglers encourage them to walk around a longstanding Border Patrol highway checkpoint. Many of them get lost in the hot, dry surrounding ranchland and go missing.

The WOLA Podcast discussed the emergency in Brooks County, Texas in October 2020, when we heard from Eddie Canales of the South Texas Human Rights Center.

Eddie features prominently in “Missing in Brooks County,” a new documentary co-directed and produced by Lisa Molomot and Jeff Bemiss. Molomot and Bemiss visited the county 15 times over 4 years, and their film shows the crisis from the perspective of migrants, family members, Border Patrol agents, ranchers, humanitarian workers like Eddie, and experts trying to help identify remains and help loved ones achieve closure.

One of those experts, featured in some of the most haunting scenes in “Missing in Brooks County,” is anthropologist Kate Spradley of Texas State University, who has sought to bring order to a chaotic process of recovering, handling, and identifying migrants’ remains.

In this episode of the podcast, Lisa Molomot, Jeff Bemiss, and Kate Spradley join WOLA’s Adam Isacson to discuss the causes of the tragedy in Brooks County and elsewhere along the border; why it has been so difficult to resolve the crisis; how they made the film; how U.S. federal and local government policies need to change, and much more.

Missing in Brooks County” will be available on streaming services soon, and will be featured on PBS’s Independent Lens program on January 31, 2022.

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