I have lived in South Texas most of my life. My community is on a corridor for trafficking. There are two routes from Mexico that intersect in my hometown. One is Highway 59 that starts in Laredo, goes through my community on the way to Houston, and then on to Canada. The second is Highway 77, that comes from Brownsville, goes through Victoria, merges into Interstate 35 on the way to Dallas, and on to Canada as well.
People in my community are most aware of drug traffic that flows through our city via these routes. And unfortunately, many make the erroneous connection of drug traffickers and people seeking to enter the US in search of work and safety. Due to these realities, it is very common for most people in this area to have a negative concept of immigration issues. This misunderstanding is what motivates me to gain accurate information about immigration issues.
In order to help educate and best address issues of immigration I see in my own community, I feel like I need to first further educate myself. I could research and find information easily enough, but I want to walk El Camino in order to learn from others who are already educated and aware in this specific area. Not only do I want to have greater insight as I relate to my neighbors, but I want to be able to share from my own personal experience. While I will never know what it is like to have to flee my home with a hope of finding a better life, I hope to gain insight of challenges facing individuals who do.
Unfortunately, my community has a history of human traffickers who prey on immigrants who want nothing more than a better life. In 2003, nineteen undocumented immigrants were found dead in a tractor-trailer left on the side of the road by one such trafficker. Then again in 2013, fourteen immigrants were killed while crammed into a single vehicle that crashed. Every time I drive south, I am reminded of the price some have had to pay while walking that road.
A memorial still stands at the spot where the nineteen people were killed. When I look at the bottles of water left at that memorial, I am reminded of a story in the Book of Genesis. After Cain murders his brother, the Lord asks him, “What have you done? The voice of your brother is crying to me from the ground. (Genesis 4:10)” I look at that memorial and I hear the whispers of names that should not be forgotten. I hear whispers crying out to remind me that something should be done.
It is my prayer and hope that walking El Camino will be a first step in seeking the answers for my community. Maybe my time walking with so many others will spark something greater that we could do as a group, rather than just individuals. Maybe I will gain enough insight to at least begin a work of justice. Whatever the case may be, I hope that the next time I drive by that memorial and hear whispers, I will be able to respond:
“I hear you. I remember. Justice is coming.”
Cheryl Miller is the Executive Director of Perpetual Help Home. She lives in Victoria, TX.