The issue of immigration has been a hotly contested one for a while now, gaining more traction in recent years due to the Trump administration’s promise of a panacea — a giant wall of mythological proportions. Missing in Brooks County, directed by Jeff Bemiss and Lisa Molomot, attempts to deconstruct such illusory and facile solutions by painting a more coherent picture of the reality near the Mexican border. Since 2008, more than 2000 migrants have gone missing in Brooks County, Texas alone, but only one in five are ever found.
When these individuals slip through the cracks in the system, many officials treat their plight and their family’s concern with neglect and contempt. Fortunately, there are a few who remember that human rights are universal and inalienable. The documentary follows the activities of one such person who founded the South Texas Human Rights Center: Eddie Canales. His humanitarian work includes creating water stations for migrants along known migration routes so that they do not die of dehydration. However, due to a climate of xenophobic hatred, the water stations are routinely damaged by racist attackers. Canales is even accused of being a criminal associate by a devout follower of Sean Hannity, who cannot comprehend the ethical framework of human decency.
“Since 2008, more than 2000 migrants have gone missing in Brooks County…”
Missing in Brooks County is exceptionally effective because it does not settle for merely talking about the evidence. Instead, the directors let the images speak for themselves. The nameless corpses of migrants that are embedded into a hostile landscape, the irreconcilable grief of families who do not know where their loved ones are, the operations of hyper-conservative militias gearing up to track, and capture migrants prove that the current system is undoubtedly inadequate. With the use of mesmerizing cinematography, the filmmakers translate an atmosphere of fear and danger into the visual medium. The disconnect between the privileged who discuss conspiracy theories about “internal takeovers” while wearing expensive night-vision goggles and the asylum-seeking refugees who just want access to clean water becomes painfully clear.
The blame for the current situation cannot fall on lone actors and small organizations when there is an attitude of negligence in government agencies regarding undocumented migrants. Therefore, research scholars like Dr. Kate Spradley are compelled to take up the monumental task of identifying dead bodies so that their families can receive some semblance of closure. Missing in Brooks County forces us to re-evaluate past and present legislative systems that have contributed to the disappearance and deaths of countless migrants and continue to do so with unashamed indifference.
"…exceptionally effective...the images speak for themselves."