Long before Michelle Malkin's cousin Marizela Perez went missing, I was interested in missing persons cases. In a couple of months, Michelle and her extended family will be marking 2 years since Marizela went missing on March 5, 2011. Michelle and others have exerted every effort to try to find Marizela, and good people like Bob Belvedere have continued to try to keep the case alive by keeping the details of her disappearance up on their websites.
What strikes all of those who have participated in any way in the search for Marizela is how hard it is to believe that someone with such motivated family might continue to be missing after all the time and effort that have been expended in trying to discover her whereabouts. Other missing persons remain missing because of sheer disinterest, either from relations or so-called friends. One can cruise the listings for missing persons and unidentified bodies and find plenty of cases involving dysfunctional families, folks with drug and alcohol problems, remains of people who appear to have deliberately ditched any identification in preparation for suicide, people whose identification was likely stolen in the course of robbery or to make it more difficult for homicide investigators to put together a case.
Then there are the undocumented, or, if you prefer, the illegal immigrants, who are virtually impossible to track or to identify because they either have no legal identity in the US or they have acquired a false identity. Many of these people come from Mexico and Central America. Those who hail from Central America, whether from Guatemala or El Salvador or Honduras or any of the other countries there have passed through Mexico on their way to attempting to cross into the United States. Whether they manage to pass into the US or not, they are exposed to dangers on both sides of the US-Mexico border. Coyotes, drug dealers, slavers, pimps . . . they all know that these people are ripe for exploitation. They are deliberately flying under the legal radar, and thus unlikely to seek police help, unless they realize in advance that they're in grave danger.
Families of the missing travel to Mexico to try to seek information about loved ones from whom they haven't heard in a long time. Sometimes they will have received a phone call or other last communication from a location in Mexico. Often, they will have been entrusted with a child or children from a person or couple who intended to return, or have them sent along. Some of the disappeared will have had motives beyond the search for work that have led them to depart, such as being wanted for a crime, which will naturally make them reluctant to resume contact if it might lead authorities to their whereabouts. Those who are being exploited as prostitutes or otherwise may be too ashamed to contact their families. Those who have been murdered or who have died are unlikely to be identified, if and when their remains are found, not only because there are no records of them in Mexico or the US, but also because such identifiers as law enforcement use, such as dental records, will not be available in the country in which they are discovered. Often, their families have no access to the Internet, where otherwise they might be able to track down information that would permit them to identify the missing. Many will have been migrant workers in the US or Mexico, whose disappearance will not have caused much note among their acquaintances, many of whom would have been similarly comparatively rootless.
It's depressing sifting through this material. I know from my own researches into the missing in Wisconsin, and particularly Milwaukee, that the case details listed for missing black men, women and children tend to be perfunctory. I imagine that in many cases distrust of the police is a factor, but I also know that other factors affect the amount of attention that's given to any particular case. Poverty of means often leads to poverty of information. Poverty of information leads to incapacity. Incapacity leads to diminished expectations, which means that case workers and detectives who already have overwhelming case loads are liable not to invest as much time and effort. There are cops who really do take these matters seriously, cops who continue to inquire even after they've retired, because it bothers them so much that there was still so poignant left on their plate. There are also time-servers, including social workers, who regard many of the missing as human refuse on whom it would be wasteful to bestow their attention.
As inarticulate as the Internet-published case files for inner-city missing persons may be, there's at least some kind of stub there, with at least a photo. In the case of illegal immigrants/undocumenteds passing through Mexico on the way to the US, there's often nothing at all. The website Barriozonas has begun (and it is to be hoped will continue) to compile a list of Centroamericanos who departed for the United States, and whose families are searching for them. The politics there are somewhat predictably radical to my view; they demonize Sherrif Arpaio, for example (without ever considering the constitutional issues and without suggesting a workable immigration policy binding on both Mexico and the United States), but they are dealing with a matter that deserves far more attention, and they take to task authorities on the Mexican side of the border, as well. There's an organization in Oaxaca, through which the majority of Central American migrants pass on their way to the US, that plays host to Central American searchers for missing persons last known to be trying to make it to the US, which has connected with a sister outfit in the Phoenix area.
Here and elsewhere, I've posted often on Mexican interference with US sovereignty in the matter of immigration. It bothers me as much as it does anyone that the present US administration not only permits but encourages suits and political demonstrations against state and local governments which actually seek to enforce immigration laws that are on the books, particularly since Mexico guards its own borders so zealously guards its own sovereignty against its neighbors, arresting and deporting students from foreign countries for (for example) walking alongside protest marches against government policies. For purposes of this present discussion, though, I'd rather stick with the sheerly humanitarian aspects of Latin Americans gone missing on the way to the US. Neither they nor their families are likely to have been Aztlan militants.
Tattooing has been popular among Latin Americans for much longer than it has in the US. In cases of unidentified remains with tattoos, one would think that such marks would make identification much likelier, but that doesn't seem to be the case. In some cases, this may be due to linguistic barriers. For example, here is one case in which a non-professional tattoo is rendered "Teamo Aracelly," when it should be "Te amo Aracelly." Assuming for the sake of argument that someone were to try to search based on the tattoo, the misreading might prevent a solution to the case. In another, a tattoo is read to say "Yo Soy Tuley," when it should be "Yo soy tu ley" (I am your law), which in turn might be a reference to the music of Cuban songwriter Gonzalo Asencio, aka Tio Tom. Was this person, whose body was discovered in 1982, one of the Mariel boatlift immigrants? In any case, the misreading of the tattoo might impede identification of the body, and it appears that it has been rendered incorrectly on the Internet for many years. In this case, an unidentified man has a tattoo referencing a woman named Mikdalia," which is uncommon enough, but has his real or assumed name rendered as Marco Antonio Aguello Perez. Assuming that the name is rendered properly, Aguello is less common than Arguello, and might possibly assist in determining a likely country or region of origin, but that is far beyond my own non-native knowledge of Latin America.
Central Americans who attempt illegally to enter the US and are deported often claim that they are Mexican, because they intend to make another attempt and wish not to be deported all the way back to their home countries. Once back in Mexico, and having spent all their money on the services of coyotes, they are at even higher risk than they were originally. What the policy answers are, I do not know. What I do know is that Latin Americans and black Americans should perhaps consider getting more involved in helping to solve these cases. Obviously, there are families who are in agony over missing persons, who would at least have some of what we like to term 'closure' if they were to have some, even unhappy, news about the people whom they seek. At the same time, there are real security issues for US citizens. Predators often look for the most vulnerable, and are enabled in their crimes when victims are less likely to be identified. Those individuals are often also exploited in the furtherance of criminal enterprises. The sheer volume of undocumenteds who fall victims to murder and other crimes also overwhelms the legal system. If you spend any time at WebSleuths or any of the other sites where people congregate to try to solve missing persons and unidentifieds cases, you will be heartened at the number of people who are willing to grind trying to solve cases, and who contribute canny suggestions and observations, who volunteer to leaflet and post bulletins. You'll also be struck by the degree to which others reach and engage in absurd speculation, and how the sheer numbers of unsolved cases can overwhelm people's judgment.
The same is certainly true for police. We all know that opening up US coffers to the demands of illegal immigrants in our fiscal situation is absurd, and we know that the same Alinsky tactics are being applied to voting, but we often overlook the demands imposed, not only on the courts, but police of all varieties by the overwhelming numbers of the undocumented. If Latin Americans want 'justice,' as they often say they do, perhaps they ought to take some interest in the solution of these cases as a first step. I'm as interested in the history of human migrations, the Mummies of Urumchi, and Kennewick Man as just about anybody, but . . . there are some matters that are more time sensitive.