Exhuming Immigrant Remains: Reuniting Families Project

Contact Information
Tonya B. Lewis, (254) 710-4656, or the Office of Media Communications at (254) 710-1961

Lori Baker, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology, who was featured on the National Geographic Channel series, The Decrypters, has worked for the past 10 years with her team of forensic anthropology students exhuming the remain of immigrants that died while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. For the past few summers, Baker and her team work in cemeteries in Brooks County, Texas exhuming remains and maintain a repository of more than 100 bodies. Baker and the students conduct anthropological tests and conduct DNA analysis in an effort identify the unknown and repatriate their remains to their families. Baker, founder and executive director of the Reuniting Families Project, has formed a consortium with other institutions to aid the identification work. The identification work and ultimately reuniting families are paramount to Baker. “We love them. We think of them as people. We treat them with respect. We remember where they come from. And, we remember that everyone is associated with a family somewhere that is grieving,” Baker said in a recent television interview. 

Related Links 

Lori Baker 2

Lori E. Baker, Ph.D.

Jim Huggins

Reuniting Families Project

News Releases

June 18, 2012, Baylor University Using DNA to Identify Deceased Along Texas-Mexico Border

Nov. 14, 2005, New Collaboration Between Baylor and Mexican Government to Identify Immigrants' Remains to Be Discussed at News Conference

Media stories about the Reuniting Families Project

2015

• Refinery29, Aug. 10: The Mass Grave In Texas No One Talks About

• Ring of Fire Radio, July 18: Texas Creates Mass Unmarked Graves for Dead Immigrants; Bodies Wrapped in Trash Bags (VIDEO)

• Democracy Now, July 16: Mass Graves of Immigrants Found in Texas, But State Says No Laws Were Broken (VIDEO)

• Fusion, July 8: Scientists are struggling to identify more than 100 mummified migrant bodies in Texas

• Texas Observer, July 6: Graves of Shame

• Houston Chronicle, July 3: Volunteers seeking to ID bodies found near border (Subscription required)

• RadioProject.org, June 23: Deadly Divide: Migrant Death on the Border (AUDIO)

• Scientific American, June 18: The Forensics of Identifying Migrants Who Die Exhausted after Crossing from Mexico

• CNS News, March 24: Texas Deputy Sheriff: County Spends ‘Half Of Our Budget’ On Illegal Alien Body Recovery

• Rowlett Lakeshore Times, Jan. 23: Baylor forensics lecturer to discuss efforts to ID unnamed dead in south Texas

• Dallas Morning News, Dec. 18: Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year finalist: Lori Baker

• Vice, Dec. 16: Dead Migrants Are Vanishing at the Texas Border

• Making Contact International, Dec. 2: Deadly Divide: Migrant Death on the Border (AUDIO)

2014

• Voice of America, Oct. 15: Naming the Nameless Dead on US-Mexico Border

• Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), Oct. 8: Desperate Journey - American Odysseys (VIDEO)

• Newsmax, Oct. 7: Texas Volunteers Help ID Migrants' Remains

• Wall Street Journal, Oct. 6: Immigration: Grim Caseload at the Border (Subscription required)

• NPR’s Morning Edition, Sept. 19: Scientist IDs Bodies Of Migrants, Helping Families Find Closure (AUDIO)

• StoryCorps, Sept. 19: “We go to cemeteries along the border...” (AUDIO)

• Austin American-Statesman, Sept. 15: Workers try to put names on migrants who die near border

• Texas Observer, Aug. 20: ‘A Cemetery For Our People’

• Texas Public Radio, Aug. 4: Students Toil In Texas To Give Names And Burials To Migrants (AUDIO)

• NPR Here & Now, Aug. 4: Students Toil In Texas To Give Names And Burials To Migrants (VIDEO)

• Boston Globe, July 26: The Forgotten

• Fusion-TV, July 23: As the Border Patrol Catches Migrants, Students Dig Up Migrant Bodies in a Mass Grave (VIDEO)

• KUT-FM, July 15: Death on the Border: Trying to Identify the Youth Who Never Made It

• FOX News, July 1: Guatemalan boy's death highlight's danger of border crossings

• Latino USA, June 27: Mass Graves in Texas

• USA Today, June 25: Volunteers work to identify remains of immigrants (VIDEO)

• FOX News, June 25: Lawmakers call for investigation into mass graves in Texas (VIDEO)

• Los Angeles Times, June 23: Texas governor warns of 'trail of tears' from border crisis

• Reuters, June 21: South Texas lawmaker calls for inquiry into mass immigrant graves

• ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos, June 15, 2014: Children of the Border (VIDEO)

• Guernica Magazine, Feb. 19: Ananda Rose: The Journey of Bones

2003

• NPR, Dec. 4: Reuniting Families database project uses forensic science to reunite Mexican families with the remains of deceased relatives (AUDIO)