I was thirsty and you gave me to drink

This Thursday the 11th of August I said the prayer to begin the monthly “walk of a mile” by social action groups, mainly women, calling attention to stopping deportations; the separation of families; the freeing those detained in migrant detention centers; and an end to deaths on the border.

We walked to the Federal Courthouse in 35 degrees C and a powerful “dog days” Texan summer sun. I walked with Eddie Canales, a local hero, from Corpus Christi, who discovered that hundreds of unidentified bodies had been found on the Brooks County’s rugged ranch land over the past decade.

Since 2012 the numbers of deaths have climbed. Violence and poverty in Central America and Mexico and a crackdown on the other corridors along the US-Mexican border, have funnelled even more migrants through Brooks County, 70 miles north of the Rio Grande and hour and a half from Brownsville.

Walking to the court house Eddie told me that in late July they discovered the six-day-old corpse of a Guatemalan lady, and then last week two more bodies were discovered.

The smugglers (coyotes) leave the migrants on the southern side of the Border Patrol checkpoint of a small town called Falfurrias, and they have to walk north for several hours through bracken on sandy terrain to avoid the Border patrol. Many get disoriented or sick and then perish from heat exposure and dehydration.

Eddie’s outfit is called the South Texas Human Rights Center with the mission to end death and suffering on the northern side of the Rio Grande corridor; to help families find their lost loved ones; to increase awareness of the oft fatal plight of migrants; and the militarization of the border.

Eddie’s volunteers set up and service water stations out in the scrub. More ranchers but not all are giving permission for them to put up these water stations on their land along the migrant routes to help prevent dehydration and save lives, especially at this time when temperatures are into the mid to high 30s.

There is opposition to this project with talk of poisoning the water and just recently 18 water stations have been destroyed or stolen. Today there are more than 90 stations established covering an area of some 1200 square miles. Home grown acts of kindness inspire the greater ones.

  • Article written by Fr Anthony O’Connor, a Marist priest based in Brownsville, Texas.
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