Beyond the Politics: Immigrant Families Face Death on the Border


Anthropologist Robin Reineke of the Colibrí Center for Human Rights puts names and faces to missing migrants at the county morgue in Tucson, Arizona.


Each skeletal remain found in the desert between the city and the border is meticulously cataloged in a binder. Between 1999 and 2012, more than 2,200 remains were found along the Tucson sector of the Arizona border shared with Mexico.

“There is this tragedy that’s been unfolding on the border over the last 10 years,” Reineke said. “I think it’s really important for us to think about the human cost of our border today, the human cost of migration.”

Human stories like 38-year-old Francisco Matias, an undocumented immigrant with an American wife and daughter in Las Vegas Nevada.

“I miss hugging him the most,” Josette Matias, his now 15-year-old daughter, told Fusion. “I have all his clothes that he’s wearing. I have all his stuff.”

Francisco lived in the States for 20 years as a landscaper, but was deported two years ago. Last seen in the Arizona desert heading back to Las Vegas and daughter, Josette, wanting to make it back in time for her 13th birthday.

“I kept hearing about all the people that would die in the border or in the desert,” Amanda Matias, Francisco’s ex-wife said. “You don’t realize how bad it is until you start seeing the numbers yourself. Until you start living it yourself.”


“She puts on this smile every day and wakes up every day and you know deep down inside that she’s not complete,” Amanda said of her daughter. “You know deep down inside that there’s something missing. [She] needs her father, and you never know if her father’s ever really going to come back.”

“I’m broken,” Josette said. “I may not show it, but, I don’t know, I just can’t show it in front of everybody. Nobody should ever go through [what I did], nobody at all.”


It is likely Francisco is one of the thousands of lives lost heading north for a job, in the unforgiving terrain of the Arizona desert.

Watch the video above for the full story.