Category Archives: Human Rights, Migrant Death

Talking about the project itself

Draining Our Batteries Under the Texas Sun

What a day! Today our group of five split into two groups, each with different goals. I went with Dr. Latham, Angela, and Deputy Don to begin searching a 1,500 acre area of a Ranch, while Erica and Rachel went with Eddie to repair the first water stations that were placed on the Ranch in 2013. The South Texas environment is very unforgiving. It is extremely harsh. This morning at 7am, it was 77 degrees Fahrenheit but 92% humidity making it feel much warmer than it was.

Sunrise on Cage Ranch
Sunrise on the Ranch

We started conducting line searches in one pasture of the Ranch at about 8am. The goal of a line search is to spread evenly apart and search a relatively large area of land for bones. All of the areas we were to search today were quite heavily wooded, and thus it was extremely difficult to stay in a straight line. We made several passes across the pasture and found various animal bones. After feeling like we had covered the first area, we moved on to the second across the street. This area was more heavily wooded than the first. Again, we spread evenly apart and attempted to conduct a line search. Our efforts to stay in a straight line were futile, however, due to the large amount of trees in the pasture. At one point I actually found myself lost in the brush. I couldn’t tell which way was out from the brush I was under and I couldn’t spot any of my team members nearby. I couldn’t hear them talking either. I saw a path, which is frequented by migrants, and began following it. I quickly found myself on the road several meters away from my teammates. While I was in absolutely no danger because I had water and teammates who care about me nearby, I felt a slight panic in the pit of my stomach. I cannot imagine making the journey that a migrant makes. When you are standing in the middle of the Texas brushlands with the sun relentlessly beating down on you, it is extremely difficult to imagine making a long journey without any sense of direction, let alone such a journey without any food, water, and the fear of being seen.

Conducting a line search
Conducting a line search

Dr. Latham, Angela, Don, and I walked for about an hour and a half before we had to take a break because we felt like we were going to pass out. We drank bottles and bottles of water and Gatorade and we were still extremely uncomfortable and totally exhausted by the end of the day.

Taking a quick break to cool off
Taking a quick break to cool off while           driving through the Ranch looking for      our next search

This experience in South Texas thus far has been extremely eye opening and wonderful, but at the same time heartbreaking. Every step we take on the Ranch, we wonder if someone could be near us hiding, dying, or deceased. We wonder if our attempts will be successful or not. And I am constantly thinking about my future. I admire Dr. Latham for many reasons and one of those reasons is her tenacity. She doesn’t give up when it is 120 degrees and 99% humidity. She doesn’t give up when we don’t find anything on our first try. And most of all, she doesn’t give up hope; hope that we are helping in this migrant crisis both at an individual level, and a crisis level. When I traveled to South Texas last May with Dr. Latham, I learned so much about the dead. I enjoyed my time a great deal. This May, however, I have learned so much about the living. It is one thing to talk about a crisis, and an entirely different thing to walk through it.

Walking back from our search
Walking back from our search

Tomorrow we will continue our searches on the Ranch with renewed hope and excitement and recharged batteries!

Haley (with contributions from Angela)


Day 4: Divide to Conquer

We started and ended our day with a “divide and conquer” plan of attack. In the morning, by splitting the team in half so that one could search while the other repaired water stations. At the end of the day, by tackling the grocery store run at breakneck speed before going to get food at one of the few restaurants still open until 10pm here.

Erica painting new barrels
Erica painting new barrels

Erica and I were on the water station repair team with Eddie.  After painting a handful of new barrels and running to Walmart for 100 gallon jugs of water (we had to ask for a pallet of cases), we loaded up the truck and headed out. After the huge accomplishment of the whole team building 13 stations on Monday, the three of us were pretty proud of ourselves for doing a route refurbishing and refilling 12 existing stations.  Although Eddie had checked it just last week, we still ended up putting out 30 jugs of water – which means the barrels are well placed to be seen and used by migrants. Since most of the barrels were put on the route almost 5 years ago, we also spent a lot of time updating them: replacing barrels, cracked lids and dried out ropes, and stabilizing them with T-posts while taking down old flag poles for repair back at the STHRC.

Tuesday has been both the hottest and longest day we’ve had yet, starting with our alarms going off at 5:30 am. Wednesday, predicted to be even hotter, will start bright and early at 5am so we can get out on the ranch and continue searching as soon as there’s enough light.

Day 4!
Day 4!

You can tell we’re halfway through the trip and starting to feel it, in the quietness at mealtimes and in the car as everyone conserves their energy and thoughts. For me, the mental strain is almost as strong as the physical – but while my body can be replenished fairly rapidly with food, water, and shade, being hyper-alert and mentally active for such long periods of time leaves me snatching moments of peace and quiet when I can find them to just “be”, without trying to remember all the things I feel like I keep losing track of, or constantly watching the brush for signs of human presence.

Two more days of work, and then a day of travel.  Though it will be tough, I have no doubts our energy and sheer tenacity of will will carry us through these last few days.  Wish us luck!



Day 3: Deep in the heart of Texas, the UIndy 500

Cows everywhere!

Another day in Falfurrias has passed us by and what a productive one it’s been! We started at the human rights center this morning to meet up with Eddie and discuss the day’s activities. Today was the day we would be going on to the Ranch to build all of the water stations that we fundraised for. We packed up all of the supplies we needed, headed out to the ranch, and was first met with a lot of cows! We saw them throughout the day everywhere we went, and while they were curious they kept their distance.



The team setting up a flag indicating a water station location


We then began building our first water station from scratch. It was slow going at first, but with each station we became more proficient and became comfortable with our individual roles during the process. After about six water stations we headed back to the human rights center to eat lunch and gather more supplies. We wasted no time getting back on the ranch and right back to work,  timing how fast we could build a water station as if we were part of a pit crew in our own version of the Indy 500.

Deputy Don stuck “Deep in the heart of Texas”

The second half of the day brought us to a section of the ranch that was too sandy for our vehicle, so Rachel and myself traveled with Eddie and Don in their trucks to put up a water station there while the rest of the crew searched another area. Setting up the water station went well but when we tried to leave Don’s truck got stuck in the loose sand! It took a bit of team work, some digging, a lot of sticks, and a tow strap but we were finally able to move out of the sand and back to the rest of our team.




Happy with our recoveries!

We then all loaded up in the trucks and drove to a less sandy area to set up our final water station. By the end of the day, we surpassed our goal of setting up ten water stations reaching a total of thirteen! We were also so excited to leave the Ranch with our arms full of bones from cow skeletons we found throughout the day.

Today we were able to experience a little bit of everything: we built water stations in the ever-present Texas heat, searched through sections of sandy soil, dealt with spiders, bees, chiggers, and ticks, and we saw, identified and collected quite a few (cow) bones. We are so proud of all we were able to achieve, but the reason for our work here has not been lost on us. The water stations we built today may save lives. The searches we conduct may help bring loved ones back to their families. Did we put in a lot of work today? Absolutely, but our work here is not finished. We’ve reached one goal but we’re only just getting started.

UIndy Beyond Borders team Day 3