Tuesday, January 15, 2019: This week began a new, and in my case final semester at UIndy. It’s hard to believe that only three days ago the Beyond Borders team was still in Texas, and four days ago we were still up to our eyeballs in dirt. We accomplished all of the goals we set for ourselves this season, and I am so grateful that we were able to experience so many different aspects that can define a migrant’s journey. We were able to visit the border wall at McAllen, a tangible symbol to those on the other side that says, “We don’t want you here”.  We were able to visit a respite center where families seeking asylum are able to shower, eat, and rest after being detained for some time. We participated in search and recovery exercises with Border Patrol and the Sherriff’s office with goals of finding migrants in distress before they succumbed to the effects of dehydration and exposure, or recovering the remains of those who we were too late to help in life, but maybe could provide answers to their families with their death. We repaired and filled the waterstations that save countless lives, and we searched the cemetery for migrant burials of those that had perished on their journey through Brooks county and had been buried unidentified. I wish everyone could experience just one of these, so maybe they would come to see that the migrant journey is not easy nor safe, that these people are fleeing to a country with many people screaming that they are unwanted, and that these people understand the risks but take the journey anyway because they often have no other choice.

Team members digging test pits
Ladder against a fence

In the midst of the current government shutdown, American citizens are stressed about what the future holds, yet we still have hope that our government will come to an agreement that will bring back a sense of normalcy to the country. The migrants fleeing their homes from poverty, gang-violence, extortion, and corrupt governments do not have that hope. Seeking a better life often means fleeing the only home they’ve known, and taking a chance that a journey north will provide opportunities for a better life – not a great life mind you, just a decent one. Most migrants understand that the journey may very well end in death, but many migrants choose this option because staying in place almost guarantees it. How can we fault people doing what they can to survive? How can a country built by immigrants sentence so many to death?

To be declared an American citizen, most of us were simply born here. We did not have to travel thousands of miles, take a test, pay thousands of dollars to an immigration lawyer to argue on our behalf…we didn’t have to do anything special really. In essence, the biggest factor of whether or not most of us are U.S. citizens is LUCK. I would argue that all American citizens are privileged to live here, and it appears that a lot of people are blinded when confronted by the plights of others. We know people are hurting, we know people are dying, but for some reason these people become “other” in a sense that they do not seem close enough, real enough even, to affect us. The Beyond Borders and Operation Identification initiatives are unique in that they allow every participant to see and acknowledge the current migrant crisis, and actually do something about it. The work we did at the cemetery showed us how the number of deaths overwhelmed the county, creating a situation where these remains were buried wherever they could fit. The work we continue to do season after season brings a different perspective on the migrant crisis that is not often portrayed in the media today. It reminds us, and hopefully our readers, that migrants are real people, with real families. The work we do gives names and faces back to the dead, and keeps their memory alive. I would like to thank everyone for supporting the Beyond Borders team this season, and reading along as we blogged about our trip. I hope you all were able to take something away from this just as I have, and you are reminded that there is good in the world, you may just have to take a journey of your own to find it.

"Revitalize not militarize border communities" poster

At the end of every day, the Beyond Borders team would open up some Mexican Cokes and cheers to a job well done. I am so proud of everything we were able to accomplish this season, and as this the last season I will participate in as an official Beyond Borders member, I would like to send out this final cheers to my fellow team members. Thank you all for a great trip filled with memories of dirt, roots, tick bites, and tamales; I’ll never forget it.

“Don’t stop me now, yes I’m havin’ a good time, I don’t want to stop at all”

– Angela

Video: Drinking cold Cokes