Our trip to Eagle Pass has come to an end. Though I traveled to Texas last May and was able to experience one facet of the crisis occurring along the border, what I experienced on this trip was wholly different. To see the way migrants are being treated, thrown into a haphazardly dug hole, often with trash, is beyond horrific. The treatment of these individuals was something I naively was unsuspecting of. Going in, I thought I would most likely see awful things, but humans do not deserve to be treated this way, regardless of the situation. However, I did not expect to see what I did.
Many of the atrocities occurring at the border are not something people are able to fathom while so far removed from the situation. Experiencing it firsthand does not allow me to fully comprehend how these acts are able to occur and what the motivations are for those closely involved. However, I hope to take what I have experienced and share it with others so that I can bring awareness of what is happening to these individuals to those who may not know.
The situation at this cemetery, among many others, is terrible, to say the least. However, seeing so many different groups of people coming together to attempt to mend the situation and get the word out about what is occurring at this location was heartening. There were reporters there, from Texas as well as Mexico, to provide accounts of these circumstances. To see another group like Texas State University work as passionately in this situation as we did was great. It was also nice to see our team come together and work so hard and efficiently for something we all care about so strongly. We functioned very well together, and I feel we were able to complete a significant amount of work during our time in Eagle Pass.
Traveling back home causes a lot of complex feelings to rise to the surface. It is difficult to see what occurs to these individuals and to hear what they went through and then return to my everyday life. I am incredibly privileged to be in the position I am, which can be challenging to contend with when I see what many migrants face. I strive to continue to utilize this knowledge to spread awareness and communicate with others about this crisis. Though this trip was difficult physically and emotionally, I am extremely grateful I was able to experience it and learn the many lessons I did. These lessons not only contribute to my education and application of forensic practices, but more importantly, they contribute to my growth as a person, and I am thankful for that.
Day three began with an early start and Whataburger breakfast. We packed up Monica (our rental minivan) before breakfast, so we could head to the cemetery to continue our work right after eating. We had general plans laid out from the night before to execute today. Once we arrived, we were given a new area of the section of the cemetery we have been working in to begin excavating. Before we started, we did some preliminary mapping to tie the new area to the one we worked on the last two days.
With a larger amount of space to work in, we were able to work in teams of two. Olivia and I began working on one burial, removing the larger chunks of dirt to expose as much of the surface as possible. Once that was done, we began troweling around the edges of the burial in order to define them. At the same time, Izzy and Kaitlyn were removing dirt from another burial we were assigned to and creating stairs that our team could use to get in and out of the areas we were working in. Our team exposed the first burial, took important measurements, and removed the individual in the morning. This took a lot of coordinating between all of us, due to the depth of the burial and other physical obstacles.
Once the first individual was moved to the intake area, we were able to all focus on the next burial. The position of this burial was not as expected, making the excavation more complicated. The consistency of the soil also makes excavation more difficult. We had a lot of assistance from Deputy Don White and Eddie Canales from the South Texas Human Rights Center. We continued to work on uncovering this burial until the end of the day.
For the evening, we were invited by Dr. Spradley and her team to dinner at their Airbnb. We were celebrating Eddie’s birthday. Don grilled burgers for us (and they were really good!). After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for our daily debrief. During these meetings, we are able to discuss what we accomplished that day and what we can do to improve the next day’s work. Personally, I like to hear the other team member’s perceptions of our day and what they think we did well and what needs improvement. The different viewpoints are helpful to gain a complete look at our day.
Our team’s trip to Eagle Pass allows us to apply our technical knowledge and skills to real world circumstances. This is important, however, we also strive to do everything we can to treat these individuals with care and respect. We will have another long day tomorrow and we are ready to continue working on our section of the cemetery.
As I begin preparing for this trip to Texas, I feel less anxious than during our May trip in terms of packing supplies and what to expect generally. Though our team for this trip consists of multiple returning members, many new lessons will be learned, and experiences gained. Instead of assisting with search and recovery efforts, we will assist Texas State University and other organizations with excavations at a cemetery. This new path causes both anxiety and anticipation. We are traveling to Eagle Pass, Texas, where currently a large number of migrants are passing through. The crisis along the border is ever-changing, and even though we were in Texas in May, the situation is going to be very different. It is difficult to fully prepare for what we may encounter when we arrive. Still, I welcome the opportunity to assist in any way possible. The ability to apply what I am learning in school to a humanitarian cause as significant as this is unparalleled.
I am looking forward to working with new organizations during our time in Eagle Pass. Learning new perspectives from these organizations and how they function differently from us in this environment will be interesting. Though I have some understanding of what is happening in this area, it is very little compared to those we will be working with. These perspectives are valuable as they provide insight into all areas of the crisis we are facing and other groups motivations we may not have thought of in the past. I am also looking forward to seeing how our team functions in this new situation. We all have strengths that will allow us to work well as a group and with members of other teams. We have previously been in situations together where we have had to be flexible and adaptable, which will be crucial on this trip.
Though I will face anxieties and challenges on this trip, it is nothing compared to what the migrants are facing. I have been very fortunate throughout my life and will never understand what those who make this journey are going through. I hope to offer any assistance I can and bring back my experiences to share with those who may be unaware or naïve of the crisis at the border.