Operation Identification has the heavy task of examining the remains of migrants

SAN ANTONIO – Locating the graves of migrants who died illegally entering the United States is the start of the grim and often complex task undertaken by Operation Identification at the Center for Forensic Anthropology at Texas State University .

Dr Kate Spradley, professor of anthropology and director of Operation Identification, said she and her students have examined more than 300 remains recovered from cemeteries in South Texas since 2013, but only 43 have been identified.

“The fact that we have over 250 unidentified remains, I think, speaks to the obstacles that are apparent in transnational identifications,” Spradley said.

She said that at least now the recently enacted Law on Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains is the first acknowledgment of the loss of human life at the border.

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“It’s a real foot in the door to do more,” said Spradley.

To help with the effort, the law provides funds to governments, nonprofits, aid groups, forensic scientists and laboratories working to identify thousands of migrant remains along the southern border. -Where is.

Spradley said the language was added with input from the Forensic Border Coalition, a humanitarian collaboration between non-governmental and government organizations.

“The new law provides funding for labs to increase capacity, buy more supplies and hire more people, to speed up the backlog,” Spradley said.

Bipartite legislation would also help improve reporting of missing migrants to CODIS, the Combined DNA Index System, and to NamUS, the national missing and unidentified persons systems.

“These are great systems and they work well for American citizens,” Spradley said.

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However, Spradley said families in Mexico and Central America are not allowed to submit reports or DNA.

She said it also does not address the broader issues of transnational data sharing.

Spradley said with the DNA database owned by the FBI, “They don’t want to allow this data to cross transnational borders.”

Instead, she said Operation Identification relied on Argentina’s forensic anthropology team to help identify the remains.

“It’s easy for us because they work on behalf of multiple governments,” Spradley said.

Known around the world for its work, the Argentina-based nonprofit scientific organization nominated for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize was created after thousands disappeared during a brutal military dictatorship in the United States. late 1970s and early 1980s.

“Everything we do, we do for families, we do to bring dignity to unidentified remains,” Spradley said.

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