The Desert of the Dead

Far from the divisive debates in Congress about immigration, illegal immigrants are dying in record numbers along a desolate stretch of south Texas scrubland. For the ranchers and border patrol agents who find them, it’s a nightmare without end.

His name was Ezequiel Amaya Escobar, although no one knew who he was when his body was discovered one morning last August under a mesquite tree. He was lying five and a half miles from the nearest paved road, in a stretch of South Texas scrubland that Spanish explorers once called El Desierto de los Muertos, or the Desert of the Dead. The austere landscape, which extends from Kingsville to Raymondville, is a patchwork of ranches that includes two of the largest in the country: the King Ranch, to the north, and the Kenedy Ranch, to the south. A Border Patrol checkpoint stands roughly in the middle, on U.S. 77, and Ezequiel had

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