Personal objects of immigrants who died trying to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border (PHOTOS).

The Stories Told by the Personal Objects of Immigrants Who Died Illegally Crossing the Border

The Stories Told by the Personal Objects of Immigrants Who Died Illegally Crossing the Border

From daguerreotypes to digital.
Sept. 17 2015 10:59 AM

Love Letters, a Toothbrush, a Bible

The stories told by the personal objects of immigrants who died illegally crossing the border.

A comb, change and a Mexican identification card are kept in a sealed bag of personal effects at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner on Dec. 9, 2014. The items were found with the decomposed remains of a Mexican male, 25, found in the Arizona desert on Aug. 1, 2014.
A comb, change and a Mexican identification card are kept in a sealed bag of personal effects at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner on Dec. 9, 2014. The items were found with the decomposed remains of a Mexican male, 25, found in the Arizona desert on Aug. 1, 2014.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

At Wednesday night’s Republican debate, candidates had yet another chance to show who could come up with the most intolerant immigration rhetoric. Donald Trump rephrased his original inflammatory statements on Mexican immigrants by saying, “We have a lot of really bad dudes from outside,” and he suggested ending birthright citizenship for people he has repeatedly called “anchor babies.” Marco Rubio and Ben Carson promised stricter immigration control, and they said they would build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

As Republican candidates vie to out-Trump one another, it’s easy to forget the human side of the immigration debate. The items below once belonged to immigrants who died of dehydration or heat exhaustion while attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. The objects were photographed in December at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner in Tucson, Arizona, where forensic anthropologists try to identify the deceased by studying their personal items and bodily remains. They tell stories of lives and dreams cut short, of people who combed their hair, brushed their teeth, smoked cheap cigarettes, read the Bible, and had lovers and loved ones whom they missed and who missed them.

A comb, change and a Mexican identification card are kept in a sealed bag of personal effects at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner on Dec. 9, 2014. The items were found with the decomposed remains of a Mexican male, 25, found in the Arizona desert on Aug. 1, 2014.
A comb, change, and a Mexican identification card at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner on Dec. 9, 2014. The items were found with the decomposed remains of a 25-year-old man found in the Arizona desert on Aug. 1, 2014.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A toothbrush, a passport photo, toothpaste, a cellphone, and a razor. The items were found on the decomposed remains of a male discovered in the Arizona desert in 2014.
A toothbrush, a passport photo, toothpaste, a cellphone, and a razor found on the decomposed remains of a man discovered in the Arizona desert in 2014.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Chapstick, a lighter, cigarettes, a power chord, and a bible, found on the mummified remains of a Guatemalan male in the Arizona desert on June 19, 2014.
Chapstick, a lighter, cigarettes, a power cord, and a Bible found on the mummified remains of a Guatemalan man in the Arizona desert on June 19, 2014.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A box of matches and a set of earbuds found with the remains of a person discovered in the Arizona desert.
A box of matches and a set of earbuds found with the remains of a person discovered in the Arizona desert.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

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A letter to a loved one, 200 Mexican pesos, $20, change, and a Mexican voting identification card found on the decomposed remains of a man discovered in the Arizona desert on Oct. 9, 2014.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

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Money and other items, including a letter to a loved one that reads: “ … I know you’re sad … it made me very happy to see you in that photo, but it also made me sad. ... I love you and I’m waiting for you and we will find a way to be together again, I also miss you a lot, you don’t know how much, I miss you so fucking much. … I’m suffering but I’m holding on because I’m strong … please don’t forget me.” The items were found on the decomposed remains of a man discovered in the Arizona desert on Oct. 9, 2014.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A list of phone numbers, including one for “father-in-law”, found with the remains of a person discovered in the Arizona desert.
A list of phone numbers, including one for “father-in-law,” found with the remains of a person discovered in the Arizona desert.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A wallet which reads in Spanish “Tenemos Que Ganar,” We Have To Win, with the skeletal remains of a person found in the Arizona desert on July 5, 2014.
A wallet that reads in Spanish “Tenemos Que Ganar
(“We Have to Win”) with the skeletal remains of a person found in the Arizona desert on July 5, 2014.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A lighter reading "Vatos Forever," Mexican slang for Dudes Forever. The item was with the decomposed remains of a person found in the Arizona desert on Aug. 1, 2014.
A lighter reading “Vatos Forever,” Mexican slang for “Dudes Forever.” The item was with the decomposed remains of a person found in the Arizona desert on Aug. 1, 2014.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

undocumented immigrant photos.
Money from Honduras and Mexico, a bracelet, a pouch, a young boy’s photograph, and other objects found on the “fully fleshed” body of man, who an examiner determined to have died of “environmental heat exposure, ”discovered in the Arizona desert on June 10, 2014.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A change purse and a Vic's Vapor Rub container found with the skeletal remains of a person discovered in the Arizona desert on Sept. 23, 2014.
A change purse and a Vic’s Vapor Rub container found with the skeletal remains of a person discovered in the Arizona desert on Sept. 23, 2014.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A list of items to bring on the journey, along with Mexican money. The list reads: “For your walk don’t forget to bring: Water, salt, lemons, garlic, matches, canned or packaged food items of your preference.” The items were found on the skeletal remains of a male discovered in the Arizona desert on June 1, 2014.
A list of items to bring on the journey, along with Mexican money. The list reads: “For your walk don’t forget to bring: Water, salt, lemons, garlic, matches, canned or packaged food items of your preference.” The items were found on the skeletal remains of a man discovered in the Arizona desert on June 1, 2014.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Juliana Jiménez is a former Slate photo editor and now a contributor writing on Latin American politics and culture for the Slatest. She translates for Democracy Now! and writes in English and Spanish for publications in Latin America.