About 180 unidentified Mexican border crossers die in Arizona each year trying to enter the United States — their bodies usually surrendering to heat exhaustion and dehydration. And because the extreme heat causes the bodies to quickly mummify, the process of obtaining fingerprints is nearly impossible.
Dr. Greg Hess is Pima County Medical Examiner, and his office sees more cases of mummified border crossers than any other in the country.
“The skin loses water content and elasticity. It will mummify, which means it becomes very hard and firm and leathery,” he said, adding that the identification process is usually compounded by the fact that many border crossers carry false documents.