New Tucson group helps ID migrant remains found in desert - Tucson News Now

New Tucson group helps ID migrant remains found in desert

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Hundreds of migrants who died while trying to cross the border are still unidentified. A new group in Tucson wants to change all that. 

Colibri Center for Human Rights is working with the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office to help put names to remains found in the desert. 

The harsh desert terrain along the Arizona and Mexico border can be deadly.

"We've had the largest number of border crosser remains found in any specific territory in the United States since 2001," said County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Gregory Hess.

He says during that time, 2,200 remains have been found. Last year, 168 remains were found. So far this year, 42 were found. 

"People travel with aliases or they're from other countries. So it's difficult to figure out who they are," Hess said. 

That's where the Colibri Center comes in.

"The volume of work coming into the medical examiner is substantial. So we do lighten that load and do a lot of investigative work," said Co-Director William Masson.

The group fields calls for those calling the medical examiner's office looking for a loved one who may have died in the desert. Hess said families looking for them may shy away from filing a report because they might not be in the country legally.

Right now in Pima County, 800 border crosser remains are in the morgue waiting to be ID'd. 

People can go to the Colibri website and file a missing person's report in either Spanish or English. Outreach coordinators then follow up with an investigation. 

"We work with families, we build relationships. We shepherd them through the process," said Masson.

Colibri is even using an online database that contains pictures of belongings found near remains that could be used to identify people.

"If the remains are repatriated, we had the belongings back to the family, so it's kind of like the last possession," Masson said. 

Hess said the group has already had a hand in identifying some remains. 

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