Migrants by Sea Investigating the Eastern United States Border

Main Article Content

Amanda N. Friend


Undocumented migration to the United States often occurs through large bodies of water such as the Rio Grande River or the waters surrounding Florida. Crossing these aqueous borders is dangerous and results in fatalities. Currently, literature on undocumented border crosser (UBC) fatalities has focused on the Southwest. This study involved the creation of a Florida-border migrant profile to retrospectively screen decedents and begin establishing a migrant decedent population for the eastern border of the United States. An expected Florida-border migrant profile was constructed using biological, geographic, taphonomic, and material culture data based on the UBC and Florida migration literature. This profile was then used to screen cases from the five southernmost Floridian medical examiner districts that had been processed at the University of Florida C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory from 1972 to 2019, using a two-tiered protocol. Of 577 total cases, 25 cases passed both screenings as potential Florida-border migrants. The demographics were skewed toward adult males of African ancestry. This method illustrates how a successive screening approach can assist the medicolegal community in identifying potential migrants both retrospectively and moving forward, even in regions where the migrant source population also contributes to the local forensic population. The results of this analysis demonstrate the complexity of the challenge faced by forensic anthropologists and medicolegal personnel investigating forensic cases including migrants in the Miami border sector and that even a limited sample can illustrate the differences between Florida migrants and those recovered in other regions.

Article Details

Technical Notes