Graduation Date

Spring 2018

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Applied Anthropology

Committee Chair Name

Marissa Ramsier

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Claudia Chávez-Argüelles

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Marisol Cortes-Rincon

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Fourth Committee Member Name

Ariel Gruenthal-Rankin

Fourth Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories



From 1998-2018, over 6,000 migrants have been found dead after attempting to cross into the United States through its southern border; most of the deaths are due to harsh environmental conditions found through the crossing areas. Migrant remains are often found with no belongings or evidence to use to identify the deceased. Forensic anthropologists, medicolegal examiners, and non-governmental organizations such as Humane Borders, Águilas del Desierto [Eagles of the Desert], and the Colibrí Center for Human Rights have worked to recover, identify, and repatriate these remains. To understand the many facets of this process, this thesis explored the relationships between forensic anthropologists, nongovernmental organizations, medicolegal examiners, and migrants. Methods included ethnography, surveys, and secondary data analysis. The results exposed some of the gaps between forensic anthropologists, non-profit organizations, migrants, and the families of victims. The findings suggest that a crossdisciplinary approach may best aid in successful retrieval, identification, and repatriation of migrant remains. Such an approach necessitates the inclusion of methods from forensic anthropology and across the broader discipline of anthropology (biological, cultural, archaeological, and linguistics), as well as other methods beyond the discipline, such as social work, to interact with families of victims and properly serve and protect the rights of the dead.

Citation Style