Category Archives: Human Rights, Migrant Death

Talking about the project itself

“The life of a migrant is sad”

The second half of our trip focused on search and recovery operations on local ranches. We were working with Eddie Canales, Arianna & Selina of the South Texas Human Rights Center and  Deputy White of the Brooks County Sheriff’s Department. The first day of searching we were joined by a few students from Texas State University. They were able to spend about three hours with us with the goal of collecting data on search coverage using GPS tracking systems. It was a nice opportunity for the UIndy students to interact with their peers in another program and to learn different approaches and techniques for ground searches. The second and third days we focused on a smaller ranch near where Byron’s cousin went missing. Our work became more personal as we searched with him and learned more of his story. He told us about his journey to political asylum in the US, the sadness of not being able to see his family and the pain of loosing his cousin. He summed it up in one simple yet heartbreaking sentence “The life of a migrant is sad.”  The pain, the fear, the heartbreak, that does not just go away once you enter the US. It is just transformed into something different yet just as burdensome and heavy.

There were many impactful moments and learning opportunities for the team during this second half of our mission. I asked them each to relay something they learned:

The last few days of our trip have been really impactful for me. Spending time for 3 days straight doing search and recovery on ranches only gave me a glimpse of what it’s like for migrants on a daily basis. But, being around Byron and hearing his story really put my experience into perspective. The three days we spent searching were tough, so to hear that Byron spent two and a half months in conditions similar to and even worse than what we experienced was just heartbreaking. And he went through all of that at the age I am now. There’s no way I could ever be able to handle going through an experience like Byron’s at 24 years old. — Alba

Alba
Alba

As we walked through the brush there were many pathways heading into the trees. As we followed these pathways in search of evidence or humanity, I realized we were walking the paths of migrants. Paths that were not clear, but instead filled with obstacles throughout the brush. It’s difficult to describe how walking these paths made me feel, but I can say I gained a new perspective and general awe of the migrants and their ambition. — Holley

Holley & Deputy White
Holley & Deputy White
While conducting our search and recovery operations, one thing I noticed was how easy it is to get turned around in the brush. Our team was equipped with compasses and safety whistles but I highly doubt migrants would have the same resources. For me, this highlights just how unforgiving the environments migrants find themselves in can be and therefore how reliant migrants are on coyotes. — Megan
Megan
Megan

During our time searching, it really hit me how harsh this environment truly is. There is sand, thorns, stickerburs, animals, tall grass, and more that migrants have to maneuver through, often without any idea of where they are heading. I would imagine this would be even more difficult in the dark, considering just how hard it is in the daylight. It’s incredible that anyone makes it through safely. — Sidney

Sidney
Sidney

~KEL

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Enigma

After our last day, Eddie asked all of us what we had learned this trip. While a valid question, all of us found ourselves unable to formulate answers. This isn’t because we didn’t learn anything, but because what we have learned is hard to articulate. The things we have learned will stay with us well past our flight home, and well into our professional careers.

But I can say: I have learned that any person who choses to cross the border is braver than I am. There is no way I could survive crossing. I had a hard time making it through three hours in the brush, let alone three months. Seeing the strength in Byron and hearing his story was incredibly eye-opening.

I have learned that Falfurrias is the most enigmatic place I have ever encountered. The few days before we leave, I don’t want to leave the comfort of my home. I know what lies ahead: hard work, foreign beds, and emotionally draining situations. When we are there and working, I am counting down the days until I can return to the comfort of my home. Then, the last day, I cannot imagine leaving, going back to the comfort of my home, away from the hard work, foreign beds, and emotionally draining situations.

In Falfurrias, we have a purpose. We wake up every morning after debriefing the night before with a plan in our head. Even though the work we do is difficult, we are working towards something. In Indiana, we are always working — on cases, on lab upkeep, on school work. But after being in Falfurrias and interacting with the community, our works seems so privileged. It’s still important work, but it is privileged work. Even our work at Sacred Heart is privileged compared to everything those who are working to aid in the border crisis do every day.

I am so thankful that those who dedicate their life to the border crisis allow us, season after season, to come back and help them as much as we can. I am even more thankful that they are dedicating their lives to this crisis.

I am so thankful for Eddie, Arianna, and Selina of the South Texas Human Rights Center.

I am so thankful for Deputy Don White.

I am thankful for my team, for the opportunities I have been given, and for the conversations had.

I will continue to be thankful, and I will continue to learn and reflect.

 

Sidney

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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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