The Pima County Morgue in Tucson, Arizona, is so overwhelmed with the record number of bodies being found in the desert this year that it has taken to storing many of them in mobile units, refrigerated trucks most often used in response to mass disasters such as Hurricane Katrina or 9/11.
As part of my investigation for Current TV's Vanguard about immigration from Mexico into the United States, I spoke to Dr. Bruce Anderson, the morgue's forensic anthropologist. "This is a mass disaster -- it's just played out slowly," he told me.
Anderson showed me the dessicated remains of one body, which Anderson estimated had only been dead for a month. The elements in the desert are so harsh that the bodies decompose at a rapid pace, making them even more difficult to identify. While the investigators sift through the things the dead carried for clues -- Mexican voter registration cards, telephone numbers scrawled on scraps of paper, jewelry, rosaries, family photographs -- the identities of most of these suspected illegal immigrants will remain a mystery forever.
Watch more from "Life and Death on the Border" at current.com/vanguard.
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