A silver bracelet with purple charms and one with mom and a flower on it

Mom.  This three letter word hangs on a pin my son made me for Mother’s Day.  The word is so small but so powerful.  Most of you spent time on Sunday (Mother’s Day) reflecting on the powerful bond and love you share with your Mom.  What sets me apart from the students I am bringing with me to Brooks County is that I am a Mom.  I know that the love you share for a child is unlike any other kind of love a person can experience.  That you think you’ve loved with all your heart until you have a child and then you realize you’ve never truly loved before.  As I prepare to travel to South Texas for two weeks I have to mentally prepare to leave my son behind in Indiana.  I won’t be able to read him bedtime stories for 13 nights or get his hugs and kisses for 14 days.  But the thought that keeps me going is that I am temporarily leaving my family to reunite other families.  I will get to hug and kiss my son again, but there are hundreds of mothers whose children are buried unidentified in the Sacred Heart Burial Park who cannot say the same thing.  I cannot imagine the agony of not knowing where my child is or not knowing if he is safe or even still alive. The thought that I may never see his sweet smile or hear his voice say “I love you” would be unbearable for me.  While these mothers may not be able to hear their children’s voices or hug them one more time, at least we can help find their sons and daughters and return them home to be reunited with their families.  Their families deserve to mourn and grieve over the loved ones they have lost.  This is the type of closure that we as forensic scientists can bring to these mothers.

I know that I would do anything for my son.  I would do anything to give him a life where he is safe and healthy.  The decision to migrate alone, with your family or to send your children ahead is literally a life or death decision.  Do I remain in a place of institutionalized violence and poverty where I risk the lives of my family each day, or do I make the decision to risk my life to go to a place where they have a chance to not only live but thrive?  The US/Mexico border wall is 40 times more deadly than the entire history of the Berlin Wall.  More people have died in the desert in the southern US than Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 combined.  Those that migrate know their odds are slim. But slim odds are better than what they face at home. As a mom I would bet on a better life for my son, and I would do anything to give him that chance.  And that is why I give up a few weeks with him to reunite families across the border.

Dr. Krista Latham