Category Archives: General

General Postings

Jan 2022 Lessons Learned in the Field

Each time the Beyond Borders Team travels to the Texas Borderlands I ask each team member to provide a few sentences describing an important applied skill they learned in the field —

Izzy: “Your team is a vital part of a good search. Being able to communicate effectively allows searches to be more efficient and keeps morale high throughout physically and mentally exhausting days. Having an encouraging and supportive team makes you want to work harder and help each other every step of the way.”

Izzy searching the brush

Olivia: “This trip taught me a lot about working with a team. Communication is vital, and having a team full of people who genuinely like each other’s company makes the work more enjoyable. I also learned it’s possible for people with very different backgrounds and outlooks on life to put aside their differences and work towards a common goal.”

Olivia searching the brush

Tanya: “I have learned that it truly takes a “village”, not one person can try to tackle the humanitarian crisis occurring at the US/MX border. It takes several individuals and agencies to work together in order to reach the same goal of preventing migrant death by advocating for policy change, refilling water stations or rescuing those who may be in distress. At the end of the day it did not matter what kind of background we came from or what religious/political views we may hold, everyone made a conscious choice to show up and do the work!”

Tanya in a line search

Alex: “Our motto for this Beyond Borders trip was expect the unexpected. During our time out in the field, we certainly had several instances were things didn’t go according to plan. However, our team’s preparation, adaptability, and effective communication allowed us to overcome adversity and accomplish our goals.”

Alex investigating a migrant’s discarded backpack

Travel Day

Today the team traveled back to Indiana to prepare for the new semester staring next week. We did some sight seeing in San Antonio on the way to the airport. It was a day of reflection and decompression. We will continue to post daily updates over the next week as we reflect back on our time in Brooks County.

Learning some Texas history at the Alamo
Exploring the River Walk
San Antonio airport
Organ Attack card game to pass the time

Grey Day in Texas

Day one in Falfurrias was cold, grey, and windy with temperatures in the low 40’s. It was not the warm weather our team was hoping for in South Texas, but I don’t think any of us could complain much since the current temperature back in Indianapolis is in the single digits.

Weather app screenshot: -12 wind chill, no thank you

Despite the chilly conditions, everyone was excited for the new opportunities to come. In preparation for the long field day ahead, we made a mandatory return trip to Whataburger for their tasty breakfast taquitos (Highly recommend the potato option: 10/10). Feeling refueled by bacon, potato, and eggs, we headed off to the South Texas Human Rights Center (STHRC) to meet up with Eddie Canales. Upon arrival, Eddie gave us a brief introduction into the history and objectives of the center and the many changes that have occurred since the previous UIndy Beyond Borders team visited in January 2020. One of the topics that really stood out to me from his talk was how the COVID pandemic has affected the border crisis from both a socioeconomic and political viewpoint. While the pandemic has altered the landscape dramatically, the numbers of migrants still making the dangerous trip across the border remains constant. Overall, these interactions have really put into perspective the many complexities of humanitarian work at the local, state, and national levels. Despite the recent success of STHRC over the past decade, Eddie emphasized that there is still a long way to go in raising awareness about basic human rights and making meaningful changes in immigration policy.

Below are a few different pictures from inside the South Texas Human Rights Center.

Objectives of the South Texas Human Rights Center
Refrigerator Word Magnets: “Pride in the Cause”

The second half of the day, our team worked with Brooks County Sheriff Deputy Don White and his fellow members from the Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery nonprofit organization in search and recovery efforts of missing migrants. We conducted systematic line searches at three different sites of a ranch previously unsearched by the UIndy forensics team. As expected, the ranch terrain was very treacherous and unforgiving.  Fortunately, due to the colder weather, insect activity was not present, which allowed walking through the high grasses somewhat friendlier. After several hours of searching the brush, there was no clear signs of recent migrant activity. Although our team didn’t see much in terms of human activity in the area, we gained invaluable first-hand experience and knowledge into the physical and mental barriers that migrants face when traversing these ranches. It was a frightening and sobering thought to learn how easy it was to get turned around and end up going in circles. One final lesson I learned from today was that overcoming the unexpected challenges is tackled with effective communication, which are team did really well in. With day one completed, I am looking forward to getting some much-needed rest before continuing our searches tomorrow.

Day #1 Search Complete
Migrant backpack and other supplies
Systematic Line Search