One Tucson man has taken on the harrowing task of identifying the dozens of bodies that turn up in the Arizona desert each year.
In 2009, the ACLU issued a statement that the deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border were evidence of a "humanitarian crisis," and estimated that since 1994, 5,600 migrants had died while crossing, with an average of 350 to 500 deaths along the border a year.
In 2011, a year which saw much lower illegal immigration rates than prior years, 117 unidentified bodies turned up in the Arizona desert, according to the Arizona Daily Star. But, thanks to the efforts of Engel Indo, five of those bodies now have names and identities attached to them - and some have even been transported home for family burial services.
"On the bilingual website, Indo puts information about the discovered bodies such as tattoo photos and head shots," The Daily Star reports.
Indo, a technology liaison for the Pima County Medical Examiner and the Mexican Consulate, finds fulfillment in reuniting families with their loved ones who have perished in the hot Arizona desert -- so much so, that he plans to venture into the desert with a group of 15 to 20 volunteers once or twice a month to find the bodies himself, according to The Daily Star.
"The plan is to very carefully mark the bones and bodies ... and grab the GPS coordinates so we can contact the authorities to come out and investigate," Indo told The Daily Star.
The Arizona desert can be very dangerous. Indo will bring with him water and food for dehydrated migrants he may find along the way, as well as a gun, in case he runs into coyotes, smugglers, or human traffickers.
Indo may encounter a range of other volunteer citizens in his outings into the Arizona desert. Armed volunteer militia groups such as The Minutemen Project patrol the border in order to keep undocumented immigrants out, while volunteer groups like the The Border Angels patrol the desert to provide food, water, and medical attention to border crossers who need it.
But Indo told The Daily Star that the job may be dangerous, but ultimately, he sees it as a worthwhile cause.
"I think giving these families closure is really positive. They are human beings that died, and, if nothing else, they deserve their goodbyes from their loved ones."