We are changing that. We have formed a migrant search and rescue group unprecedented on the 2,000-mile U.S.A./Mexican border – Los Halcones. Under this arrangement, Rancho Feliz provides for Mexican nationals to cross into the U.S.A. legally to search for their lost countrymen, women, and children. This cross-border alliance, between American and Mexican search volunteers, hikes the treacherous desert trails.

We have volunteered on the USA/Mexican border for 35 years. We understand the human toll this divisional line has fostered. Every year hundreds die in the Arizona deserts. These lost and missing migrants are our own. Their lives matter. Lack of governmental funding precludes DNA testing of located remains. Tragically, most surviving families never learn what happened. This lack of closure is inexcusable to a civilized society. It is also psychologically devastating to the families, friends and villages left behind.

They locate the lost.
But most often they find unidentified bodies and human remains.

Unfortunately, scavenging animals, insects and desiccating heat can decompose a human body in less than a week. This rapid disintegration results in an estimated only one out of five bodies ever being found. Extrapolating these numbers means that for the 651 bodies discovered on the border in 2021, 3,255 people actually died agonizing deaths in search of a better life. Of these, 2,604 have disappeared forever and their surviving families will never know what happened to them. This relentless suffering is unconscionable.

While some bodies can be identified through dental records, etc., most cannot. Badly decomposed bodies require nuclear DNA testing – a costly and time-consuming process averaging around $1,000 per test. In the Tucson, Arizona sector alone there are currently 1,448 sets of human remains in storage with the Pima County Medical Examiner that the US government doesn’t have the funding to test. For the families of these unidentified migrants, their constant and unresolved anguish continues.

Rancho Feliz privately funds the identifying nuclear DNA tests for the remains found by Los Halcones. To date Rancho Feliz has an approximate 50% success rate of matching migrant remains DNA with surviving family members. Though not good news, the test results allow sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, friends and neighbors to move forward with their lives.

The suffering occurring daily on our southern border guts the soul. It will be a stain on our collective conscious for generations to come. These are America’s “Killing Fields”. Bringing attention to this travesty and providing closure to distressed loved ones is the least we can do for those who paid the ultimate price in search of their American Dream.

Funeral Photos Courtesy: Albinson Linares, NYTimes

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Los Halcones (The Hawks)

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