Category Archives: Human Rights, Migrant Death

Talking about the project itself

Day 5: The Search Continues

As always, when in Texas expect the unexpected.

We had expected today to be a continuation of Saturday. Indeed, today started off the same with all of us rolling out of bed, applying sunscreen and bug spray, then heading over to the hotel lobby to enjoy a protein filled breakfast.

However, today was destined to be a new adventure. The Texas State crew and some of the reporters had to return home so we were a smaller search team. In addition, we conducted search and recovery operations on a different ranch than the one we had been on Saturday. The reason we decided to search this new ranch is because it falls along the path Byron’s missing cousin is suspected to have taken. Bryon’s cousin has been missing for almost a year so we were all eager to search this new property with hopes of finding some evidence that could bring Byron closure.

We walked almost four miles searching for remains and evidence of recent human activity. Similar to yesterday, we encountered a variety of terrains including sand, brush, and open grassy areas. Variance in the landscape made conducting a systemic search of the area challenging, yet we were able to identify some personal effects likely belonging to migrants.

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Today probably was the most emotionally eye-opening day of our trip so far. While searching in the brush, I came upon some footprints in the mud that looked fresh but were not made by any member of our search team. Deputy Sheriff White followed the footprints and concluded that two adults and a small child had been through the area less than 24 hours previously. Thinking about how physically draining today was on our whole team then imagining a small child pushing through the brush, past the snakes, feral pigs, ticks, and thorns, leaves me dumbfounded.

A footprint I found in the brush
A footprint I found in the brush

Tomorrow will be our last day searching for the May 2019 session. I’m incredibly proud of our team so far and know that we will be able to summon all the strength required to have a productive last day.

Day 5
Day 5

Megan

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Day 4: Search and Recovery…and Tamales

This morning we began our day as usual with hotel breakfast and raspberry emergen-c. But, although our start was the same, the rest of the day would be completely different than the previous days. Today was our first day of search and recovery operations.

At 7:45am we left the hotel and headed towards the South Texas Human Rights Center where we met up with Deputy Don White, Arianna, Selina, and few new additions to the usual that included Eddie Canales, a few students from Texas State University and a couple of media reporters. It was such a pleasure getting to meet Eddie for the first time knowing how dedicated he is to providing humanitarian aid along the border. He’s truly an inspiration.

After a quick pow-wow on the day’s plan of search and recovery , safety precautions and waiver signing, we all headed out in our vehicles to the ranch. Lucky for us, the weather was quite overcast and hadn’t yet reached 90 degrees. Once everyone was parked, gaiters on and bug-spray sprayed, we were off. While it took a few moments of strategizing, we all lined up side by side 5-10 feet away from each other — some with GPS trackers in pocket — and began the search.

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The ground was soft and sandy, sticker burrs plagued the way and grasshoppers jumped frequently with every foot that hit the ground. Some parts of the landscape were flat and other parts were full of thorned trees with spiders hanging from their branches. We searched for 3 hours (it honestly felt a lot longer).

During our search we encountered a lot of personal effects left behind by individuals following paths across the border; these included plastic water bottles, aluminum cans, clothes, purses, etc. This was really eye opening. It was a rough terrain and the weather was not forgiving, but we all knew that we would return to our own vehicles and, at the end of the night, sleep in air conditioned rooms in our own beds at night. This is not true of individuals such as those that left their clothes and water bottles behind.

Clothing left behind by border crossers
Clothing left behind by border crossers

 

After our relatively short time searching, we stopped for a snack, jumped in the back of Eddie’s truck and rode towards our parked vehicles where we started. From there, we returned back to the South Texas Human Rights Center to have a lunch of sandwiches, pickles and grapes and allow everyone some time to check themselves and each other for ticks. Luckily, the Beyond Borders team was tick free, for today at least! The same cannot be said for some of the others in our group. Finally, Dr. Latham, Eddie and Deputy Don had a conversation on tomorrow’s plans and we all headed out for the day.

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Because we finished our search fairly early today, we had some time to spare. After jumping in the hotel pool for a quick cool down and taking a shower to wash off the debris of the day, we decided to head out to McAllen. There, we got to see a glimpse of “the wall”, and it was…interesting. Border patrol was already set up in their truck when we got there and told us to not get too close to the wall, so we only stayed long enough to take some picture of the wall and destroyed ladders along its periphery.

"The Wall"
“The Wall”

Lastly, and possibly my favorite part of the day, we went to Delia’s for dinner and I do not exaggerate when I say that I got to eat the best tamales I’ve ever had! I can say with confidence that we all greatly enjoyed that meal after what felt like a really long day and here’s the proof:

Husks of 15+ tamales eaten by us
Husks of 15+ tamales eaten by us
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Day Three: Finishing the Route

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.

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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.

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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.

Day 3 with Arianna & Selina
Day 3 with Arianna & Selina

 

Holley

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