The Namus Project has been developing since August of 2014. Our funding was secured from a grant from the Ed Rachel Foundation.  The proposal submitted to the foundation is a partnership effort of the South Texas Human Rights Center with the Brooks County Sheriff Office (BCSO).  The task is for the STHRC to house and coordinate the collection of all documented data related or attached to all the unidentified human remains' cases of migrant border crossers since 2009 on record with the BCSO and for such data to be entered in to the NamUs system.

Our initial efforts had been training key volunteer staff and registering key working group volunteers on NamUs.  Our initial attempt to utilize local college students for data entry was unsuccessful because the issues and procedures are complex.  The most critical aspect is maintaining the accuracy and integrity of all protocols of NamUs.

After some clarity to the process of data entry into NamUs by the BCSO, a conference call took place with the Directors of NamUs including Dr. Arthur Eisenberg, co-director of the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification; Dr. Lori Baker, PhD, the principal forensic anthropologist of the Brooks County exhumations; Michael Nance, Regional Admininstrator of NamUs, and; our staff Eddie Canales and Sister Pam Buganski.  As a result, Dr. Lori Baker and Eddie Canales were attached as Case Managers to unpublished cases of the NamUs "Missing Person Project".

We will be working with Dr. Lori Baker from Baylor University to reconcile BCSO unidentified cases with exhumed bodies, to work with the BCSO to accept un-published cases, and to have BCSO incident /offense numbers assigned. We will then authorize NamUs to publish those cases.  

We are working with the Colibr´┐Ż Human Rights Center from Tucson, AZ, to obtain family contact information to collect bio-metric data for all the cases. In the future we will do outreach to families of missing persons.  
How does the STHRC anticipate that the Executive Action on Immigration taken by President Obama on November 20, 2014, will affect our work and that of other groups working with immigrants in South Texas?

We hope to be able to orientate qualified persons in South Texas and refer to legal entities such as  Catholic Charities Immigration Services and RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) in Corpus Christi for the expanded DACA or the new DAPA programs.


What is DACA?  An executive order of June 15, 2012 called DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was put into place when the DREAM Act failed.  DACA allows all who were brought to the USA before the age of 16, who had graduated from high school or held a GED or were enrolled in equivalent classes, who has continuously resided in the USA for five years, and who were under 32 years of age on June 15, 2012, to apply for work authorization and protected status that would prevent deportation.  Once received, DACA documents need to be renewed every 2 years.  


The executive order of November 20, 2014, expanded DACA by adjusting the last two stipulations.  Instead of having been present in the US since June 15, 2007, the applicant has to have been in the USA since June 15, of 2010.  In addition, the cap age of 32 has been dropped.  Those who receive DACA when the program begins in February 2015 may re-apply after three years. 


A second and new instrument is being referenced as DAPA or Deferred Action for Parental Accountability.  This will allow individuals who, as of November 20, 2014, have a son or daughter of any age, who is a US citizen (USC) or lawful permanent resident (LPR), and who has continuously resided in the USA since January 2010, to apply for work authorization and protected status.  Application for DAPA will begin in May of 2015.


There is fear that many scammers will take advantage of this situation.  


Immigration law is specific and a lawyer needs training in order to move forward in a way that will not harm the client.  


While waiting for February or May 2015, there are several things that qualified persons can prepare including:  saving money for filing and legal fees, collecting evidence which proves continual residence in the USA since January 2010, and obtaining legal copies of a birth certificate, identity documents, and documents of relationship.



In addition, President Obama's executive action on immigration will end the controversial Secure Communities Program which has been accused of undermining public safety and encouraging racial profiling.

Secure Communities was put into place in March 2008 as a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program designed to identify immigrants in US jails who are deportable under immigration law.


Dr. Kate Spradley addresses human rights advocates


The Prevention of Migrant Deaths Working Group and the STHRC welcomed Dr. Kate Spradley, Texas State University biological anthropologist to assist with the groups' general understanding and planning for next steps with policy issues related to missing migrants, unidentified remains, and cemetery excavations.  


In the evening, Dr. Spradley spoke with human rights advocates in Houston, TX, about her work.


One heartfelt component at the STHRC is the caseload of requests for assistance in searching for lost family members or loved ones.  Our process begins with filling out a very thorough intake form which details all the facts and circumstances of the case: How, when, where, and why the person disappeared.  All the physical information of the disappeared person is taken. Most family members are aware when a member of the family begins their journey of migration. They are financial, emotional, and spiritual partners in the dangerous trek.  Migrant border crossers leave their home country not by choice but out of sheer desperation: fleeing corruption, violence, poverty, persecutions, political and civil upheavals in Central America and Mexico.

We get calls from immigrants whose loved ones have disappeared from a few days ago, a week ago, or a few months to several years ago.  All persons seeking loved ones or family members want some finality or closure to a migrant's saga or legacy.  

It is a very difficult task hearing from family members who, in most cases, have secondhand information of the scenario where a migrant border crosser was left behind on one of the countless trails in the South Texas brush country desert terrain.  Some simply know that their family member was left to perish by unscrupulous "coyotes, guides or polleros," as they are called. The work of STHRC is to gather as precise a location as we possibly can where a body or remains can be recovered.  In future posts, we will present to our readers and supporters stories of our searches of human tragedies caused by "policies of death".

Eddie Canales, Sr. Pam, and Ed and Coral Matus traveled to meet with Dr. Spradley to learn more about her work and to see the FARF (Forensic Anthropology Research Facility) at Texas State University.  Visits such as this help us to work together and to understand more clearly the role that each plays in our humanitarian efforts.

Dr. Kate Spradley, an associate professor and biological anthropologist, her colleagues and students at the laboratory at Texas State University, have assisted in collecting forensic data from the exhumed remains taken from the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Falfurrias, TX, during the summers of 2013 and 2014. So far, Dr. Spradley's team has been instrumental in the identification of two persons exhumed in 2013.

In addition, Dr. Spradley and her students collect data on the decaying remains of donated bodies on Freeman Ranch, an extension of Texas State University.  

Dr. Spradley states: "I use metric data from human skeletons to address identification methods in forensic anthropology, to track population migrations when there is little or no historical documentation, and to explore the skeletal morphological changes associated with human migrations and changing environments (e.g. climate, nutrition, health). My current research broadly addresses migration, sex and ancestry estimation within forensic anthropology using quantitative methods and more specifically my research addresses Hispanic identification issues."

This developing new science will prove helpful in identifying unidentified remains of world migrants, especially those in Brooks County.

The STHRC is grateful for the assistance of Dr. Spradley and her students who have processed and analyzed about 25 of the 76 exhumed bodies from Brooks County held at Texas State University.

Dr. Kate Spradley and Eddie Canales at the Texas State University Forensic Lab



Joy Olson, Maureen Meyer and Adam Isacson of WOLA, the Washington Office on Latin America, allowed Sr. Pam to accompany them on their visits to shelters in Matamoros, Tamaulipas in Mexico.

We visited three places:  Casa del Migrante, a Center for Human Migration, and a Center for Social Services.  All three are run by the Catholic Diocese of Matamoros. Sr. Pam shared information about the work of the STHRC and the desire to collaborate in our work.

The dining room of Casa del Migrante, an overnight shelter. "I was a stranger and you welcomed me."
Center for Human Migration located in the bus station to assist those who are deported from the USA.
Social Services Center for short term assistance and shelter.


Ed and Coral Matus build a storage space behind the STHRC
$50-Ken Kenegos
$250-Julie Brotje Higgins
$100-Monica Hatcher
$50-Cherie Gorman
$100-Helen Bare
$30-Maureen Pacino
$300-Matthew Elliott
$100-Bob Kloos
$250-Patricia Jacobs
$75-Deborah Karam
$160-Marianela Acuna
$100-Jesus Alcoser
$150-Elizabeth Averyt
$20-Anadeli Bencomo
$50-Lisa Courtney
$50-George Dwyer
$10-Arthur Eureste
$500-Tom Ferrio
$25-Sara Fuentes
$500-Hiram Garcia
$5-Chriselle Garza
$100-Heidi Zhou-Castro
$75-Emilio Zamora
$30-Robert LaFarge
$25-Bert Montemayor
$3-Jaira Pereznegron
$10-Veronica Ramos
$200-Jennifer Reed
$21-Jannell Robles
$70-SunHawk LLC
$10-Julien Toniolo
$136-Manfred Toppelreiter
$100-Andrew Wilson
$100-Dr. Stephen and Cathy Bazeley
$1,000-May 1st Coalition
$165-Day of the Dead Event in Houston, TX
$100-Lee and Cindy Parke
$100-Students of Archeology and Forensics at the University of Indianapolis
$100-Joyce Wilkerson
$200-Sisters of Notre Dame, California Province
$175-Judith Robbins
$1200-Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
$70-Phyllis Tierney and the Sisters of Saint Joseph
$25-Geralyn Stenger



Tracy Medrano assists with water stations.
Special thanks to Sr. Mary Beth Hamm who assisted with setting up QuickBooks and other needed odds and ends!

Special thanks to Tracy Medrano who assisted with communication projects and Spanish translation!

Special thanks to Ed and Coral Matus who assisted with communication projects and the foundation for an outdoor storage space!

Special thanks to volunteers of Casa Marienella and Posada Esparanza of Austin--Jenny Taylor, Keiler Beers, Josselin Garibo, Eliza Weeks, Dounia Lomri, Brooke Severe, Becky Daily and Samone Nigam--who helped with water stations!

Special thanks to Michelle Garcia and Jazmin Ramirez who assisted with computers and records!  Michelle Garcia also presented to the South Texas Youth Congress Conference at Falfurrias High School regarding the work of the STHRC.

Special thanks to all who have participated in the Christmas Card Campaign (click on the blue words to find out more)! The letters are beginning to arrive.  The women are very excited!  I have several more names which I will list here if you still wish to participate: 

Beatriz Adriana Torres Garces #3141200064

Elizabeth Torres Garces #3141200063

Blanca Isabel Martinez Escobar #3141200173

Maria Gonzalez #311090016

Renee Lynn Sauceda #3141200165

Maria de la Luz Martinez-Ulloa #3141200131

Gregoria Lopez Vasquez #3141100107


Special thanks to

Veronica Guerra, Rochell Lentz,Tracy Medrano, Eddie Canales, Nohemi Cuellar, Caly Fernandez, and Rev. Lydia Hernandez who have volunteered to be pen pals to the women at the Brooks County Detention Center.  More needed!  Contact me at pbuganski@yahoo.com.





Celina Moreno and Marisa Bono from MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) gathered information regarding roles of militias in South Texas in illegally detaining migrants.


Joy Olson, Maureen Meyer and Adam Isacson from WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America) will develop national legislative strategies with the STHRC to reimburse South Texas counties' costs related to unidentified human remains.



STHRC welcomes Hailey Duecker

The STHRC welcomes Hailey Duecker.  Hailey, a Texas native, did her undergraduate work at Texas State University earning a degree in anthropology.  Her graduate work in biological anthropology was also earned at Texas State University, located in San Marcos, TX, under the guidance of Dr. Kate Spradley. Hailey has been accepted into a PhD program at the University of Florida in biological anthropology.  She will begin her program in August 2015. 


Hailey was a graduate research assistant and the lab director of the Operation Identification Project at Texas State.  Hailey will be teaching the Human Osteology course in the spring semester at Texas State.


Hailey's background and experience is perfect for our needs at the STHRC.  She has much experience with NamUs, human remains recovery, administrative and database organization, human skeletal analysis, working with law enforcement, as well as training and workshop presentations.


Hailey's first tasks include: Data organization of missing persons' reports, entering the missing persons' reports into NamUs, and serving as liaison with the Brooks County Sheriff Office and other organizations with the STHRC.


Hailey will work at the STHRC on weekends through June 2015.





 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  It is an American realist novel published in 1939.  The book won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it was cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.  As you read, ask yourself how the words and wisdom of John Steinbeck inform current immigration issues.
Memo on Secure Communities (11/2014) Department of Homeland Security
Lost in the System (Summer 2013) NACLA Report