It has been far too long since I have written. Many things have happened in the past two months.....like...
...Hearing that four identifications have been made from the participation of the South Texas Human Rights Center in the Missing in Harris County Day held 7 months ago in Houston, TX. Thirty families came to report a missing loved one that day and submitted DNA samples. When those family samples were forensically compared to DNA samples taken from remains of unidentified deceased migrants, four matches were made and the medical examiner in Houston declared identification and is now in the process of informing family and beginning the repatriation process.
|Eddie Canales takes information on a missing person.
...Eddie, our director, signing on to a letter demanding a hearing before the family detention centers can seek licensing as child care centers as a means to continue to hold children with parent(s), who have not been charged with a crime, as prisoners within our U.S.A. And the detention centers are nothing less than prisons (don't let anyone tell you otherwise).
...The progress of The Cemetery Mapping Project in which the STHRC has contributed to investigation begun in the cemeteries, county record offices, and funeral home files of four counties in south Texas. The work will eventually cover 18 counties. The initial months of discoveries have allowed the setting of protocols and procedures. The leaders of this project are Mercedes Doretti of The Argentine Forensic Team and Dr. Kate Spradley, professor of anthropology at Texas State University. One goal is to attempt to count the number of unidentified buried migrants, another is to identify them and repatriate them with family members.
|The unmarked grave of a recently deceased unidentified migrant.
|Someone tends the graves of these unidentified deceased migrants.
...Enduring the removal and destruction of 7 of our water stations. Though these stations are on the meager amount of public land available in Brooks County, some deem the stations disruptive enough to vandalize and steal. Fear and anger lead to not just crime but inhumane action.
...Continuing to take calls from families of the missing and knowing that it will be a long journey for family members and multiple organizations until identification and repatriation of a body, if such efforts are successful.
|Forensic Anthropologist Hailey Duecker takes a DNA sample from the family member of a missing person at the STHRC office.
It is time to tell some of Wendy's story until she can tell it herself.
By God's grace, I was providentially assigned to visit with Wendy at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, TX, after completing the Hutto Visitation Program Orientation run by Grassroots Leadership in Austin. Wendy had been caught while crossing the border and had been in detention since December of 2014, one year ago. Criminal charges were filed against Wendy for crossing the border without proper documentation; her political asylum claim held these charges in abeyance. According to the visitation program agreement, detainees at this facility are permitted to sign up for visits from outsiders. Wendy requested a visitor, and I visited her for the first time in April 2015.
We bonded immediately.
By God's grace, the next day, I found a pro-bono lawyer to take Wendy's case. Unfortunately, because there were only two weeks before her final asylum hearing, and since pushing back the date was not permitted, Wendy's lawyer was not able to get all the required evidence from Guatemala for Wendy to quickly be granted asylum. Though the denial was appealed, Wendy received her deportation notice at the end of November 2014. (I have never met such dedicated persons as the pro bono lawyers; they have found their purpose.)
Most of the time for Wendy during the past year has been spent waiting in prison-like conditions for the system to process her case. For the final month of incarceration, Wendy was sent to the Laredo Processing Center in Laredo, TX, nicknamed "the deportation center." Wendy was shell-shocked when arriving there; I had never seen her so distressed and depressed. The food was once again intolerable, but things like not having doors on toilet facilities, pushed her to the edge. In Hutto, visitors were permitted visitors from 8:00 to 8:00 any day of the week. In Laredo, visits to low-level detainees such as Wendy were reduced to a potential 6 hours maximum per week. At least while visiting in Laredo, I was not rebuked for holding Wendy's hand.
On Saturday, Wendy and I said our good-byes with a tearful hug and whispered "Dios te bendiga" (God bless you) and "Te quiero" (I love you). For perhaps the last time, we called one another by the nicknames we had given one another "Amiga Mia" (my nickname for Wendy) and "Angel Mia" (Wendy's nickname for me). It is likely that before the next opportunity for visiting comes around, Wendy will have already been deported back to Guatemala.
(In contrast, I just can't let this news item pass....last week, former CEO of Massey Energy was "convicted of conspiracy to willfully violate mine health and safety violations". Twenty-nine miners died as a result in 2010. Blankenship "could face up to a year in a federal prison." And Blankenship's comment: "If they put me behind bars...it will be political." The powerful "get away with murder." Where's the justice?)
(Okay. You have to read this one, too! It was put out today. Homeland Security's Unchecked Corrpution at the Border. WHY is Wendy, why are mothers with children, held in private money-making prison camps until their hearing? One answer for this is Operation Streamline which will soon mark its 10 years of existence.)
Actually, Wendy had a new peace about her when we met this last time. She was stronger. She had taken back her freedom. She knew she was going to be deported at the next opportunity of the U. S.federal government, but that would mean reunification with her four minor children whom she has not seen for a year. That, however, in my opinion, was not the reason for her new resolve. Wendy told me that she will try again to come to the U.S.A. She has already made her plan. This time she will bring her youngest child with her, her son of not even two years.
Thank you for your support and prayers, especially for Wendy!
Clicking on blue words will take you to more information.
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. Our scheduled January and February 2016 trips are already filled.