Throughout the past two decades, thousands of people have died or disappeared in the U.S. desert borderlands north of the U.S.-Mexico international border. Meanwhile, families of the missing and dead have had to fight for the inclusion of their loved ones as legitimate members of society with rights to forensic services, care, and remembrance. While being personally committed to caring for their loved ones or ending the anguish of not knowing, families also confront state authorities and demand attention to their case in highly political, but largely invisible ways. They contest state processes of illegalization and invisibilization and have become key actors in forensic work along the border. Drawing on over 14 years of participant observation and forensic humanitarian action in southern Arizona among families and forensic scientists, in this talk I focus on the invisible labor of families of the missing and dead and the impact it has had on the social memory of racialized state violence in the borderlands. Finally, I invite collective recognition of some of the border’s dead and missing whose families have requested they be publicly named and remembered.