Going to Texas, I knew we would all encounter new experiences. I thought the hardest part of our trip would be navigating the terrain, but this was not the case. From filling the water stations to conducting searches, this trip opened my eyes to how devastating life as a migrant can be. If I could summarize what I learned in one sentence I would say our trip taught me about the power of perseverance. Both the perseverance of migrants to escape life-threatening countries or situations, as well of that of the many people who dedicate their lives to helping them. Many of the 40 water stations we serviced had been used. Some contained empty water bottles, while others contained no water at all. When you fill water stations, you are out on the road doing a necessary job. The magnitude of this work didn’t hit me until we begun our searches and walked in the footpaths of migrants. Those empty water stations represent migrants who are not ill due to dehydration; they represent effective life saving efforts.
As I mentioned, the work we were doing didn’t really hit me until we began our searches. Shortly after we began our first day of searches, the personal effects of individuals surrounded us. As we willingly tracked through the brush, trees, spider webs, and all sorts of organisms I contemplated the fact that this was not a choice for migrants. They don’t have the freedom to get into a vehicle when they’re dehydrated or tired. Walking in the brush is difficult, coupled with the heat and a long journey can make the task nearly impossible. Yet, thousands of migrants walk through the brush everyday.
Another impactful aspect of our trip was the people. Each person we met was optimistic, dedicated, and diligent in their effort to aid in this humanitarian crisis. Getting to know Deputy Don White, Eddie, Arianna, Selina, and Byron was one of my favorite parts of this trip. They are all such wonderful, caring people. I’m honored to have been able to spend time with each of them and learn about their stories and what they do in Brooks county.
Since coming home, I’ve had a lot of time to ruminate over our trip. As students, we learned a lot in terms of conducting searches and practicing anthropology in a field setting. As people, we learned about human will and perseverance. At the beginning of our trip, I wrote that I believed this trip would be life changing. Not only did this trip live up my initial expectation, but it did so in such a way that I never believed possible. I am incredibly grateful to everyone involved and the South Texas Human Rights Center for allowing us to tag along and learn from them. I will never forget the people we met, the places we ventured, or the experiences we had while walking in the footprints of migrants.
We, again, started the day off with breakfast in the morning and then met Arianna and Selina at the South Texas Human Rights Center. Our plan for the day was to continue filling water stations along the route that we had started on day one. We headed out for the day knowing, for the most part, what it would consist of. We drove through a checkpoint and Deputy White informed Border Patrol that we were filling water stations, in hopes that we would not be suspected of human smuggling again. As we arrived at the first water station, we all stepped out of the vehicles and prepared to reinforce and refill the station. Over the past two days, refilling water stations had become systematic. We assessed the water station to see how many bottles of water needed replaced, if the barrel needed to be changed out, or if the barrel needed to be clamped to the nearby metal stake.
We continued along the route for about an hour and a half before reaching the restaurant we had planned to eat lunch at. For lunch, we enjoyed beautifully prepared mexican style dishes. Some of which consisted of fresh vegetables and homemade flour tortillas. During lunch, we encountered the Texas Highway Patrol once again. Luckily, encountering them this time was a pleasant experience. Although, when we headed out to the next water station after lunch it looked like we were going to be pulled over once again. Arianna quickly put on her four-way lights to signal we were pulling over and that seemed to deter the patrol officer from stopping us.
By two in the afternoon, the original route was completed. There was still more water to distribute so we went down a different route and refilled more stations. Down this road, we found barrels plastered with political statements as well as barrels that had been replenished with water from someone not associated with the South Texas Human Rights Center. These barrels expressed two very different sides of the community in Falfurrias and the surrounding area. It was reassuring to see that someone else in the community was actively assisting in similar efforts as those of the South Texas Human Rights Center. Also, down this road a pair of jeans hung on one of the ranch fences. They were a strong reminder of the presence of the undocumented border crossers within the brush. From here, we headed back to the South Texas Human Right’s Center. Everyone joined in an effort to unload the vehicles, then we discussed the plans for the next day’s searches.
Going to Texas will bring with it many new experiences. Some of these experiences include a change in environment, while others include a change in culture and community. I look forward to the new experiences Texas brings. I am most looking forward to getting to know some of the people who have devoted their time to the humanitarian works within the border lands and those who call the area their home. Being raised in America by parents from New Zealand gave me a unique perspective of American culture. I’m interested to see if anyone in Texas may have had a similar experience growing up so close to the Mexican border, or possibly being a dual-citizen themselves. I hope by the end of this trip, I will have a better understanding of what is occurring in Texas and along the Mexican border. My understanding of this humanitarian crisis can only go so far without witnessing it for myself.
Texas will be very challenging because again, it encompasses both a different environment and culture within the community. Going into any new community as an outsider can be difficult, but going to Texas will be quite different as we are entering the community trying to understand and help with the humanitarian crisis. As an outsider, I think a substantial challenge will be adjusting to the cultural changes from my background to the background of those living in the Texas-Mexico borderlands. Another challenge will be the environment of the Texas landscape. Texas is hot and contains snakes, spiders, and boars; all of which I did not grow up with. Even though it will be a challenge, I am looking forward to the many new experiences this trip will bring.
I think this experience will be life changing. That sounds cheesy, but I mean it. Going to Texas allows us to experience a very small part of what these undocumented border crossers face throughout their journey. You don’t know what they are going through and we will never know exactly what they go through, but we can try and understand them.