Category Archives: Environment

Talking about the weather, terrain, flora, fauna, etc…


Day 9: How to Build a Water Station

One of the many ways that the South Texas Human Rights Center contributes positively to this humanitarian crisis is by constructing and refilling water stations to help prevent migrant deaths.  Every year, countless people die while crossing the harsh desert scrub land of Brooks County.  The water stations prevent more deaths by providing a waystation of relief in an otherwise unforgiving environment.  Building and replenishing the water stations is full-time endeavor that requires the aid of multiple volunteers.  Please check out this short video that demonstrates how much work goes into the creation of one of these stations.

To check out the South Texas Human Rights Center, please click here.

Justin and Helen


Day 8

Cemetery Mapping
Cemetery Mapping

For our second day in Falfurrias, we surveyed cemeteries with Dr. Spradley and Dr. Gocha from Texas State University and Eddie Canalas from the South Texas Human Rights Center. The cemetery survey project was created to locate all the cemeteries in south Texas that have graves with unidentified migrant remains. Cemeteries in several counties have already been surveyed and mapped and more will be added to this list. The goal is to eventually excavate the remains in these cemeteries, so that they can be analyzed, identified, and then returned to their loved ones.

Dr. Spradley with the GPS device
Dr. Spradley with the GPS device

Today we assisted in surveying a total of 3 different cemeteries. Dr. Spradley used GPS to create maps of each cemetery and plot each unknown grave. This was also our first full day actually working outside. It was a beautiful sunny day, but it was also really hot and humid. We were sweating after the first few minutes of being outside, but we survived a whole day of this so we should be okay for helping with the water stations tomorrow.

As we were surveying, I noticed how beautiful the Texas wildlife was. There were lots of colorful birds and flowers. In some areas, it felt like we were in a jungle and not in Texas at all. Palm trees weaved with tall branching trees and created canopies for us to drive under. We looked out the windows of our truck in wonder. I captured some of this beauty on a short video for you all to enjoy!

Driving in Texas

Thanks for reading and watching! Tomorrow should be another busy, but exciting day.


Falfurrias Checkpoint

Patrolling the Border

Pictured above is the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint.  The highway it blockades, US 281, spans from Mexico to the Canada border.  It is one of the many ways the U.S. Border Patrol polices our borders.

DSC_0616I learned a lot about the different methods agents use on this trip.  Please allow me to give you a brief tour of a few of them.

DSC_0573Perhaps the most obvious is the fence at the border.  It lies on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande.  It is a stretch of steel and steep cliffs.  It is also lined with many remote sensing devices.  We were in this location for only a matter of moments before Border Patrol arrived to greet us.

borderlandsThe fence does not span, the entire length of the border, but where it does it is quite intimidating.  There are stories about migrants trying to sneak past, only to be killed by the slow crushing force of the mechanical gates.

DSC_0574Another new addition to the arsenal of the Border Patrol is the aerostat.  The aerostat is a tethered dirigible that is outfitted with cutting edge technology.

DSC_0477That tiny blimp in the background is the aerostat.  Each one costs roughly $2.5 millions dollars.  It has the capabilities of surveying over 20 miles.  It is also equipped with thermal and night-vision.  It can remotely survey vast areas of desert that would otherwise be nearly impossible.

DSC_0596Even with my largest zoom lens,  the aerostat is barely visible in the distance.

DSC_0539The tract of land above is colloquially known as “The High-Wire”.  The high-wire is a swath of power lines that runs due north, making it a perfect landmark for migrants to follow (especially in an otherwise landmark-less terrain).  It is also peppered with remote sensing devices.  This makes it a powerful tracking device for Border Patrol, and a dangerous pathway for any migrants.

DSC_0645In addition to all of the high-tech patrolling methods, border patrol also uses several low-tech methods.  Most of the ranches in South Texas are surrounded by dirt maintenance roads.  The maintenance roads on the inside of the fence are mainly used by the ranchers.  The maintenance roads on the outside of the fence are heavily utilized by the Border Patrol.

DSC_0575Tires like these are dragged with chains behind vehicle to grate the road.  After the road is grated, Border Patrol can track footprints across the dirt pathways.

These are just a few of the many tools that the U.S. Border Patrol uses to detect individuals crossing the border.