Tag Archives: immigration

The Tourist Returns…

Less than a week already! I am so thankful to have been chosen to be on this team once again. In my last blog post, I wrote about leaving Texas feeling like I was leaving with unfinished business, and I have thought about that since that day. The work done by the UIndy Beyond Borders Team is something I am so grateful to be a part of, and I am very ready to get back to work.

My last pretrip post was more about packing and food and very superficial things, simply because I didn’t have the experience or knowledge to even want to speak on what the next week would entail. Now, I am honestly worried about much different things. Of course, I still worry about packing the right elements for this trip. Texas heat in May is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been a part of many band camps in the Louisiana heat, and I am still worried about the heat. I’ve been trying to recall any advice from old coaches of how to keep cool, how to best stay hydrated, and how to fight off the swarms of mosquitos. I have not forgotten the hazards of hidden cacti and everything being sharp, but my biggest worry is rooted in the emotional perils that come with this work.

Texas ranch land

In January, we mostly encountered evidence of people passing through the areas we were searching, whether that was as recent as the night before or as long ago as us finding fully rusted cans as the evidence. We do this work to try and bring closure to the families who may have lost someone on this dangerous journey. After the trip in January, I feel as though I am so much closer to this cause than ever before. It’s very easy when working to compartmentalize the emotional and harder parts of the job, but I know this trip will impact me harder than ever before. Being more knowledgeable of the humanitarian crisis occurring at the US-Mexico border makes every step you take to find someone’s loved ones, to give help to those in need, to educate your community mean so much more than it ever had before. The more I learn about it, whether that is through reading about it, hearing someone’s personal account, or talking to those also involved in this work, the more I feel motivated to do everything in my power to help those affected by this crisis.

I’m looking forward to seeing Eddie and Don and everyone else who we worked with previously. By the end of the trip, I considered everyone a friend on top of being a teacher, a leader, and some of the most amazing people I’d ever met. Our team this May is made up of Dr. Latham, myself, Olivia, Jordan, and Austin. I am excited to see how we grow over this trip not only as teammates but friends as well.

See ya soon, Texas! Izzy

Day 8: Some pretty awesome ladies!

Today was day eight. I cannot believe that we only have one day left. It has gone by so fast, and I am very thankful that we write these blogs in order to reflect and remember everything that we have done from day to day. It is hard for it not to all blur together when we have done so much in the few days that we have been here.


We continued trenching our site today and were really shocked at how much progress we made. With two hours left we made it our goal to complete two more trenches, yet we finished those and began 4 more trenches before the end of the day. I think that I say this in every blog but I am very proud of how much dirt we have moved, how much area we have cleared, and the positive attitude that remains within our team. We are some pretty awesome ladies if I say so myself!

Today I had a unique experience of helping the Texas State team leads with intake. This is where we open up the body bag, coffin, patient belonging bag, etc. that exhumed, unidentified remains were found in and record how many and which bones were accounted for. If there is any writing on the bags or identifying features/belongings, that is recorded as well. Photographs are taken, and the bags are sealed up ready to be sent to the Texas State Labs for analysis. It was interesting to be a part of, as our team has not yet exhumed anyone or participated in this process so far this season.

Sister Pam
Sister Pam

Sister Pam came to the cemetery today – she is a catholic Nun who has helped in previous field seasons and is a huge supporter of our project. She drove 23 hours all the way here from Ohio to be able to see us this season, which we could not believe. She greeted us all with warm hugs and a kiss on the cheek before proceeding to put gloves on and help us move dirt. After all of the stories I have heard before meeting her today, I was not at all surprised. She was hauling buckets better than I could. She is exactly the type of woman that I would like to be later in life – stubborn, determined, and strong. It was nice to hear her talk to Dr. Latham about previous students she has met while helping with exhumations. Asking what they are doing now and so forth. Most of them have moved onto PhD’s or highly regarded jobs, many on the basis of what these exhumations have taught them and what experiences they have gained from them. It made me feel very lucky to be where I am, getting into the dirt with Sister Pam just like others have done before me. She is one cool lady, let me tell you!

Dr. Cate Bird was on site today. She is a forensic specialist working for the International Committee of the Red Cross. Which for many of us here – is a dream job. She is a supporter of our project and is going to report back to Washington D.C. on the work that we are doing here in Falfurrias. She has been with us for a few days and has been kind enough to make the rounds to all of our teams to chat and see what progress we are making. She was so kind to buy everyone popsicles on site today. It was such a kind gesture in the peak heat of the afternoon, to get us all together for a refreshing treat. Thank you, Dr. Bird, for being yet another example of what we can aspire to be in our field!

I’d like to end this post today with some things which have been on my mind the last few days. Right now, there is a government shutdown on behalf of President Trump due to concerns with border security. It is a bit surreal that we are here… at the border, exhuming unidentified migrants, visiting the border “wall”, participating in search and recovery with Border Patrol, donating to the Humanitarian Respite Center, meeting very nice people who are here to seek asylum, and working with people who are so passionate about this side of immigration that you do not see on the news. We are seeing a humanitarian crisis that is different from what many may know. It is humbling, and it is important. We are here to do what we can to promote social justice and I am very proud of that.

Thank you for reading along! We will be seeing you again tomorrow, where you can read about our last day of digging. Bittersweet!

Day 8
Day 8


Questions, nerves, and excitement – all in one

It is currently Christmas Day, and as I am among family – laughing, eating, and opening presents – it is hard to believe that in a week and a day I will be in Texas to start this grand adventure. I still need to get some last-minute supplies before I go, and I am beginning to think more about what is to come. I am both nervous and excited. Dr. Latham has done all she can to prepare us before we leave but I am still thinking that there is an element of the unexpected which lies ahead. We have been told that there will be 10 -days of digging – but I have never had to endure something like that before. We have been told that the weather will be unpredictable – but how will we adapt? We have been told that what we see may be sad or emotional – but how will I cope? We have been told that this experience is life changing – but how will it change my life? These are things that we cannot truly prepare for – but I have always been a fan of the unexpected.

I think that a big theme of this trip for me, and something that I am prepared to learn more about, will be the immigration aspect of what we are doing and why we are doing it. I am an immigrant, having lived in the United States since I was 6 years old.Passport My family and I still do not have US citizenship. We are currently here on green cards, which took my family 10 years of lawyers, travelling to US embassies in Canada, and upwards of $100,000 to obtain. Trying to become established in another country is not easy or cheap, especially the United States. When I think of our situation versus someone from South America seeking refuge in the United States, our situations are quite different. When we moved to the US, my dad already had a job waiting here for him. We had the money to afford the insane immigration and lawyers fees to do it legally. Obtaining Visa after Visa, until we became eligible to apply for green cards. We were not fleeing violence or corruption of our home country. We did not come here out of fear, but out of opportunity.

I am ready to see the other side of immigration in the United States. It is something that I am very passionate about, and it is something I have always wanted to get involved in. I really hope that we have a chance to visit the Humanitarian Respite Center, where Dr. Latham has said that hundreds of people filter through every day after arriving to the United States. I would love to help out as much as I can with that side of things, as well as with the forensic work that we will be doing while we are in Texas. I count myself lucky for the opportunities I have had since coming to the United States but I really want to understand that it can be so different and it can be so unfair.

Which is why I am so happy to have the opportunity to travel to Texas in the first place. This trip is special to me because I am going to get to learn more about what I love to do and what I want to make a career out of, and because I will have the opportunity to be more involved in an issue that I have always been passionate about. I am nervous as this is the first forensic archaeological field work that I will be doing. I want to do the best that I can in order to bring what little justice there is to the people who have not succeeded while crossing the border. I hope that they will all eventually be returned to their families and be laid to rest in peace. I am very excited to play a part in that.