What was different about this year?

If I had to pick one thing that set this year apart from the others, it was our interaction with the living, breathing, human side of the story.

I started reading a book before the trip called Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States, written by Seth Holmes. At one point in the book, the author writes:

“I have been asked to invite [migrants] to speak to other gabachos—and have been shocked how often conferences on migration include no migrants, even though they are presumably experts on the topic.”

I think this was a lingering feeling that I couldn’t really get past while being a part of this trip the years before this one. A disconnect existed, despite whether I felt it at the time or not. Before this year, I had never met a migrant. I had never seen REAL emotion from a face-to-face interaction; I had only seen it in pictures. I had never heard a migration story directly from someone who experienced it; I had only heard it secondhand from news reports, textbooks, law enforcement, etc.

This year, I met migrants. I saw real emotion, heard real stories, and experienced a different kind of emotion than I had felt the past two years. I read the missing persons reports and the tragic stories from loved ones searching for answers, and for the first time, I honestly felt scared.

I’ve been revisiting a few articles since coming back from the trip, trying to make connections between the past and the present. I found an article that was written by Robin Reineke of the Colibri Center for Human Rights that raises concerns about how media outlets describe the humanitarian crisis (read the article here). While most of the article explores the political and historical roots of the crisis, the one part that really struck me was her discussion on the dehumanization of migrants through language. After rereading her article with the context of this year’s experiences, a major point really clicked for me: what is happening on the border is a crisis on so many levels, and it is affecting so many human beings. Of course I’ve always known this and have referred to it as a ‘humanitarian crisis’, but this year I think I really felt what each of those two words are referring to. This is extremely human, and it is a crisis for so, so many people.

When I first posted about this year’s trip, I talked about searching for new perspectives that could enhance my ability to assist however possible. That search didn’t take long; a new perspective revealed itself every day. And I quickly understood that those perspectives will keep popping up as long as I recognize each conversation and interaction as a different, and equally informative, perspective.

I will continue to post as I begin my internship at the South Texas Human Rights Center. As always, I am extremely excited for the opportunities ahead and for the progress that will be made.