PNS Daily Newscast - May 27, 2020 

Four Minneapolis police officers fired following the death of a black man; and a federal lawsuit claims New Yorkers with disabilities excluded from expanded absentee ballot plan.

2020Talks - May 27, 2020 

Republican governors in Georgia and Florida offer their states as alternatives to North Carolina, after President Trump expresses impatience about talks of a more limited Republican National Convention because of the pandemic.

Collecting DNA in New York to Identify Bodies in Arizona

Hundreds of bodies are found in the desert near the U.S.-Mexico border every year. (Jonathan McIntosh/Flickr)
Hundreds of bodies are found in the desert near the U.S.-Mexico border every year. (Jonathan McIntosh/Flickr)
August 14, 2017

TUCSON, Ariz. -- This week, a group from Tucson's Colibri Center for Human Rights is traveling to New York and New Jersey to take cheek-swab DNA samples from families who have missing loved ones last seen at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The DNA results will be compared with the unidentified remains of more than 1,000 people at the Pima County Medical Examiner's office, presumed to be migrants who died trying to cross the harsh desert into southern Arizona. Reyna Araibi, co-founder and communications director at the Colibri Center, said the goal is to give grieving families a measure of peace.

"Families deserve to know what happened, even if someone went missing crossing the border,” Araibi said. "And on the other side, for the people who've died crossing the border, it isn't enough just for them to be buried under the name 'John or Jane Doe.' These people deserve to go home. They deserve to be with their families."

Colibri created its Missing Migrant Project in 2006, but started the DNA program in December with a trip to Los Angeles, followed by stops in San Francisco and Phoenix. Chicago is up next, this fall.

So far, a handful of matches have been made - but there are still more than 2,000 active missing persons cases from families in the U.S. and Latin America searching for relatives who disappeared trying to reach the U.S.

Araibi said she expects those numbers to grow if President Donald Trump extends the border wall.

"Policies that militarize the border funnel people into the most dangerous and remote areas of the border, like the desert in Arizona,” she said. "And the desert doesn't discriminate. It can be the youngest, healthiest person that's crossing, and they still die."

In order to collect samples from families south of the border, she said Colibri has partnered with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, a group formed after the disappearance of more than 9,000 people under Argentina's military regime in the late 1970s and early '80s.

Suzanne Potter/Cynthia Howard, Public News Service - AZ