The word that comes to mind when thinking about my departure from Falfurrias is bittersweet. On the one hand, I am very sad that I am leaving behind all the new people I met during the week. I am going to miss sharing jokes and laughs with Eddie Canales, the director of the South Texas Human Rights Center. In my short time of knowing him I can tell that he is very passionate about not only advocating for migrant rights, but also preventing migrant deaths. He accomplishes both by trying to change local policies in place and by constantly building/ replenishing water stations along highly traveled routes. I am going to miss daily conversations with the kind-hearted Sheriff Deputy Don White! He is a wealth of knowledge and really showed our team how to navigate through the thick, thorny brush during search and recoveries! He literally knows the lay of the Texas land and knows how to get out of “sticky” situations. For instance, on the last day of searching, his truck got stuck in the sand and was able to quickly come up with a plan to get out.
I am sad because I am going to miss the little routine that we created during our week there. I got used to waking up early to load up gallons of waters into the truck to refill stations we saw along the way to the ranches, walking 3-5 miles a day doing searches/recoveries, and our little debriefing meetings before going to bed. I am going to miss the daily cow sightings on the ranches, the team got excited EVERY time we saw one.
I am sad because I now have a slight understanding of the realities and hardships migrants face while making their journey to the United States. I emphasize slight because, while we walk the same paths and routes as migrants, we have a sense of security knowing we will make it out the treacherous terrain well and alive. We are protected from head to toe with the proper gear like snake gaiters, bug repellent, hydration backpacks, etc. The vehicle that we have waiting for us after search and recoveries, is fully equipped with first aid kits, food, and water. After a few miles of walking, we get to call it a day and head back to our hotel to sleep and rest. The reality is that migrants walk hundreds of miles for several weeks and do not get the same amount of sleep or rest. They carry the bare minimum with them because they do not have the means or capability of having all of the proper gear. They do not have the same sense of security of making it out alive.
During our last day of search and recoveries we encountered a recent migrant camp-out. Here, we saw items we think of as essentials get left behind. There were several backpacks filled with clothing, unopened non-perishable food items, and medications. Maybe the items just became too heavy to carry around? Meaning they were left no choice but to consolidate what was more important to carry for the remainder of their trip. The truth is that we will never know and can only speculate the reasons why those certain items got left behind. Seeing this really put things into perspective, I could not imagine having to make that tough decision.
On the other hand, I feel happy to be back in Indianapolis because I know our work does not have to end in Texas. Even though Indiana is not considered a border state, we have the capabilities to be an advocate and raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis to fellow peers, friends, and family. I feel happy that I was a part of such a strong, well working team so, thank you Alba, Sammi, and Sidney! I also want to thank Dr. Krista Latham for being such an amazing teacher/leader, and for providing this opportunity to her students.
I hope to be back one day!