New Collaboration Between Baylor and Mexican Government to Identify Immigrants' Remains to Be Discussed at News Conference

Nov. 14, 2005

by Julie Carlson (254) 710-6681

Baylor University representatives and officials from the Mexican government will hold a news conference to discuss their collaboration on a new program instituted by the Mexican government to identify the remains of immigrants who died crossing the border. The news conference will be held at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, in room A207 at the Baylor Sciences Building. A reception will follow in room A301.

Participating in the news conference will be Jorge Guajardo, Consul General of Mexico in Austin, Marco Antonio Fraire, Director General, Protection, Ministry of Foreign Affaire and Dr. Lori Baker, assistant professor of anthropology at Baylor.

"Within the frame of the consular protection programs operated by the Government of Mexico to serve the Mexicans communities abroad, the instrumentation of the SIRLI project comes as an important and valuable tool that will help us to identify the remains of those who have died along the border and whose identity was never established," Fraire said. "This system will bring closure to the drama of many Mexican families by letting them know the final fate of their missing loved ones."

The project/database that Mexico has started is SIRLI (System for the Identification of Remains and Localization of Individuals). The database contains information from missing-persons reports and photos filed by families, as well as fingerprints and signatures taken from Mexican consular, military and voter registries. Baylor will provide assistance with identification through DNA analysis.

"I will receive DNA samples from unidentified immigrants' remains for DNA analysis from medical examiners' offices and reference samples from families from Mexican consulate offices," said Dr. Lori Baker, who is heading up the project for Baylor. "I will test each of the samples to the reference samples provided. Each of the consulates has submitted a list of cases to the officials in Mexico of unidentified individuals and they are working now to compile the list and send it to me. We will first work on cases in which we have a tentative idea of identity and can receive a family reference sample."

A forensic anthropologist at Baylor, Baker has attracted national attention not only for her work in DNA research but also for her unique DNA identification program, "Reuniting Families," which seeks to identify bodies of immigrants who died while trying to cross the Mexico border into the United States. Since the project began, she has made five positive identifications.

"The SIRLI database works similarly to the one we have here except that they have infinitely more people working on it through the consulate offices--which should make it much more successful," she said.

The SIRLI system is operating in all Mexican consulates in the U.S. and in foreign relations offices throughout Mexico. Since October 2003, nearly 700 migrants have been found dead along the border with Mexico, according to Border Patrol records. For now, only the most recent unidentified cases stand to be solved.

For more information, contact Baker at (254) 710-2145.

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