During the past 2 weeks, I have had the privilege to touch the lives of Felipe, Homero, and Keilin and/or their families. In sharing a bit of the encounters, I hope to deepen the reality of daily border life in South Texas.
BY FAR the best news of the 2 weeks was the successful search-and-rescue of Felipe. Felipe called 911 at midnight Monday morning to report that he needed help. He had an injured knee and was hungry and dehydrated. He knew that without help he would die. Felipe decided to end his journey north in favor of saving his life after getting almost 100 miles into the U.S.
Calling 911 is NOT a guarantee of being found alive or of being found at all. At least two non-profit organizations got involved in Felipe's case: Proyecto Desaparecidos and the South Texas Human Rights Center. Since all of the Texas borderlands is private ranches, only specific groups are able to do on-the-ground search for a missing person. Generally, this is a special unit of the Border Patrol. The non-profits saw their role as holding the feet of the BP to the fire to make sure that a thorough search was begun as soon as possible and that the search would continue for more than an hour or so. The two organizations would also keep contact with the family and gather as much information as possible regarding the journey to relate to the BP in an attempt to narrow the search radius.
Even though GPS coordinates were taken with the 911 call, a lack of sufficient cell phone towers makes the triangulation process inaccurate or non-specific. In addition, the vegetation in the sandy and hot desert is very thick and it is difficult to see anything on the ground even at a short distance. As an additional challenge, Felipe was not the only case that was on the desk of the BP.
Within 12 hours of the 911 call, Eddie Canales, director of the STHRC called me to say that Felipe was found alive! This is nothing less than a miracle! We rejoice and thank God! What happens now with Felipe is unknown. Some options include: seeking asylum, seeking voluntary departure, being deported. Any of these options will include some length of detention.
Please keep Felipe and his family in your prayers.
Last week family members of Homero heard that he had been left behind in the desert while crossing though our area. Two of Homero's brothers, Omar and Ivan, and Omar's wife Michelle, decided to drive to Brooks County to try to find Homero themselves. It was possible that Homero was still alive, and they could not trust his life to strangers on the telephone.
The three were very resourceful. After using a map to try to find the path Homero had taken, they visited the Border Patrol station and the Sheriff's Office to report Homero as missing. Here they were referred to the STHRC. Our role was to take a lengthy official missing person report, collect DNA samples from family members, and press for immediate action by the BP search teams. In addition, I was able to accompany the family through their days, offer hospitality, and answer questions.
The family members went so far as to find and hire an independent helicopter operator to go up and search from the air themselves. It gave comfort in that it allowed them to participate in the search process. They also realized first hand not only the difficulty of the terrain, but also that the information relayed to them from the smuggler did not match the actual markers on the ground.
Pilot (left) and Omar (right) board the helicopter to search for Homero.
While the three were here, family members from all over were gathering at the family home in Houston to comfort Homero's mother, father and younger sister. Yet, before heading home without any news of Homero to take back to the family, they insisted on helping with the refilling of water stations here in Falfurrias. We found several stations that needed water and several stations gave evidence that border crossers had used the stations.
|Michelle, Omar and Ivan help refill water stations.
We at the STHRC will continue to work with Homero's case. Please keep Homero's family and friends in your prayers.
Throughout the three day stay of this family, I could not help thinking of my own family. Which three would have been sent on mission in the name of all to search for a beloved gone missing and perhaps still alive?
I met Keilin while visiting the Adelanto Detention Facility. A member of Detention Watch Network arranged an official tour of the facility. I was privileged to be among the 13 of us, including lawyers of clients at Adelanto and members of Human Rights Watch, who toured for four hours. Afterwards we stayed to visit with some of those held at the facility. I visited with Keilin.
|It was shocking to leave the prison and find myself in the most beautiful mountainous desert I have ever seen. The contrast was surreal.
Keilin came to the U.S. with his family as a 1-year-old. At age 17, Keilin made an error of judgment and got caught. He served his time. Almost 20 years later, immigration sought him out because of this past record. He has been detained in Adelanto for four months. He has no lawyer. He has not information regarding his case or how long he will be waiting. He wonders why he is held to double jeopardy.
Keilin is a certified licensed arborist. He has worked faithfully at his job for 16 years. He has a 5 year old daughter and wants to marry the mother of his child.
He is not dangerous. He was the most gentle and patient young man.
We prayed together. I realized more deeply that man is not made for this world and that our real life is eternal. I told Keilin that there would be no line at his entrance to heaven. Keilin prayed believing that God would be the last person to speak on his behalf and yet he prayed without revenge.
Please keep Keilin and his daughter and family in your prayers.
Thank you for your support and prayers!
Clicking on blue words will take you to more information.
Thank you to those who responded to our plea for regular monthly donations through our PayPal account! Much appreciated! Still a ways to go to get to 50 donors!
To educate about the reality of the South Texas border and the people affected by border policies and practices, the STHRC has begun to organize immersion experiences. To participate in an 8-day hands-on border immersion experience (Sunday to Sunday) contact me at email@example.com.