UIndy team heads off on forensic mission to identify migrant bodies found in Texas

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - With the new year, a group of local college students are setting off on a long-distance field trip providing an unusual but vital service.

It's a mix of science and humanity that drives this group in their mission to identify those who were lost in a Texas town over the last decade.

They head off on their trip Monday, January 2nd.

Dr. Krista Latham is in the final hours of preparations for the 1300 mile trip.

Her destination: a town near the Texas border. "This is essentially a humanitarian crisis. We consider it a mass disaster situation,” says Latham. She is a forensic anthropologist from the University of Indianapolis. She will be part of the painstaking project in exhuming the remains of more than one-hundred migrants that were fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador over the last ten years.

Their bodies have been discovered in Brooks County, Texas. “It's essentially the same number of individuals if you were to see a plane crash,” Latham told us. “That would overwhelm any county."

For the last three years, she has worked with teams from Texas State University to help identify the remains. "So this is not only important because we want to identify these individuals, but we also want to bring closure to the families."

The migrants did not survive the brutal conditions in this area just north of the border. It is grim work recovering the remains.

Several Uindy anthropology students will also make the trip, like Justin Maiers.

"There's the heat, there's like the labor so you're lifting buckets of dirt and shoveling and just doing excavation stuff. But the emotional stuff is the stuff that is harder to prepare for, because you're not exactly sure what you're going to experience."

“It's really teaching them to be humanitarians,” said Dr. Latham. “To be global citizens…so they learn humility and they just learn to care."

The trip will last ten days. To analyze and identify those who have died will likely take years, but those involved ultimately hope to bring peace to those families wanting to find missing loved ones.

Learn more about the mission at Beyond Borders: UIndy Forensics in South Texas

The students and instructors pay for the trip themselves, and are enlisting financial support.