Category Archives: Reflections

Reflections on how we feel and how the mission is changing us

Home Again

Going to Texas, I knew we would all encounter new experiences. I thought the hardest part of our trip would be navigating the terrain, but this was not the case. From filling the water stations to conducting searches, this trip opened my eyes to how devastating life as a migrant can be. If I could summarize what I learned in one sentence I would say our trip taught me about the power of perseverance. Both the perseverance of migrants to escape life-threatening countries or situations, as well of that of the many people who dedicate their lives to helping them. Many of the 40 water stations we serviced had been used. Some contained empty water bottles, while others contained no water at all. When you fill water stations, you are out on the road doing a necessary job. The magnitude of this work didn’t hit me until we begun our searches and walked in the footpaths of migrants. Those empty water stations represent migrants who are not ill due to dehydration; they represent effective life saving efforts.

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Our team refilling a water station

As I mentioned, the work we were doing didn’t really hit me until we began our searches. Shortly after we began our first day of searches, the personal effects of individuals surrounded us. As we willingly tracked through the brush, trees, spider webs, and all sorts of organisms I contemplated the fact that this was not a choice for migrants. They don’t have the freedom to get into a vehicle when they’re dehydrated or tired. Walking in the brush is difficult, coupled with the heat and a long journey can make the task nearly impossible. Yet, thousands of migrants walk through the brush everyday.

Deputy White and I during one of our search days.
Deputy White and I during one of our search days

Another impactful aspect of our trip was the people. Each person we met was optimistic, dedicated, and diligent in their effort to aid in this humanitarian crisis. Getting to know Deputy Don White, Eddie, Arianna, Selina, and Byron was one of my favorite parts of this trip. They are all such wonderful, caring people. I’m honored to have been able to spend time with each of them and learn about their stories and what they do in Brooks county.

Our last meal before goodbyes
Our last meal before goodbyes

Since coming home, I’ve had a lot of time to ruminate over our trip. As students, we learned a lot in terms of conducting searches and practicing anthropology in a field setting. As people, we learned about human will and perseverance. At the beginning of our trip, I wrote that I believed this trip would be life changing. Not only did this trip live up my initial expectation, but it did so in such a way that I never believed possible. I am incredibly grateful to everyone involved and the South Texas Human Rights Center for allowing us to tag along and learn from them. I will never forget the people we met, the places we ventured, or the experiences we had while walking in the footprints of migrants.

Holley

 

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Unforgettable In Every Way

The week that I was fortunate enough to spend in Falfurrias is one that I will never ever forget. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in such a short time from improving my skills in the field with search and recovery to learning and trying to understand all of the behind the scenes work that Arianna, Selina and Eddie do at the South Texas Human Rights Center. Although there were some hardships along the way, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

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At the start of this trip, I knew that we would be working hard every day and that we would be battling the Texas environment (heat, humidity, and all of the little creatures), but I didn’t know that I would leave Falfurrias missing every single person that I got to personally meet and get to know. I was never prepared for the impact it would all have on me and I don’t think it has even all sunk in yet. Getting to know Deputy Don White, Selina, Arianna, Eddie and Byron was the absolute highlight of my trip. They’re all such an inspiration and I’m so proud and thankful to be able to have participated in their mission.

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Taking part in refilling and repairing water stations along the various roads, highways and ranches gave me a glimpse into how far and widespread migrants can find themselves in Brooks County. There were very few water stations that we didn’t have to replenish which, when I sit and reflect on that fact, shows how important the work done by the South Texas Human Rights center is; yet, it’s heartbreaking to know that individuals crossing the border are constantly running out of water in a state with a heat so unforgiving. The search and recovery operations were also a reinforcement of this thought.

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There is no comfortable path to take when you find yourself walking through the ranches of Brooks County. Being on these ranches and following the same paths of migrants crossing the border was exhausting, and we only did it for a few hours a few days. Experiencing Deputy Don White’s dedication firsthand was one of the things that kept me motivated to continue forward. On our second to last search and recovery day, while we waited to be picked up by Eddie in the truck, Deputy White proceeded to tell us how proud he was of us and that he couldn’t do it without us when, in reality, it’s the other way around. Coming from someone who spends countless days and all of his energy doing what we did for just three days, it really meant the world.

There were a lot of impactful moments on this trip for me, but it wasn’t until our last day in Falfurrias when Byron offered some insight into his own experiences crossing the border that I came to realize just how much sacrifice is involved in the decision to come to the US. Thousands of dollars, two and a half months of physical and emotional exhaustion, the fear of getting detained, and the knowledge that you may never be able to return home and see some of your own family members ever again. This is something unimaginable for me. Yet, as we said our goodbyes at Jalisco, Byron proceeded to hug every one of the Beyond Borders team and enthusiastically thank us for our work. Knowing that we had a positive and significant impact on someone who has experienced the hardships of being a migrant crossing the border makes everything worthwhile.

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There aren’t enough words in the world to express how grateful I am to everyone involved in giving me such an amazing opportunity and experience.

~Alba

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Day 5: The Search Continues

As always, when in Texas expect the unexpected.

We had expected today to be a continuation of Saturday. Indeed, today started off the same with all of us rolling out of bed, applying sunscreen and bug spray, then heading over to the hotel lobby to enjoy a protein filled breakfast.

However, today was destined to be a new adventure. The Texas State crew and some of the reporters had to return home so we were a smaller search team. In addition, we conducted search and recovery operations on a different ranch than the one we had been on Saturday. The reason we decided to search this new ranch is because it falls along the path Byron’s missing cousin is suspected to have taken. Bryon’s cousin has been missing for almost a year so we were all eager to search this new property with hopes of finding some evidence that could bring Byron closure.

We walked almost four miles searching for remains and evidence of recent human activity. Similar to yesterday, we encountered a variety of terrains including sand, brush, and open grassy areas. Variance in the landscape made conducting a systemic search of the area challenging, yet we were able to identify some personal effects likely belonging to migrants.

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Today probably was the most emotionally eye-opening day of our trip so far. While searching in the brush, I came upon some footprints in the mud that looked fresh but were not made by any member of our search team. Deputy Sheriff White followed the footprints and concluded that two adults and a small child had been through the area less than 24 hours previously. Thinking about how physically draining today was on our whole team then imagining a small child pushing through the brush, past the snakes, feral pigs, ticks, and thorns, leaves me dumbfounded.

A footprint I found in the brush
A footprint I found in the brush

Tomorrow will be our last day searching for the May 2019 session. I’m incredibly proud of our team so far and know that we will be able to summon all the strength required to have a productive last day.

Day 5
Day 5

Megan

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