BROOKS COUNTY, Texas – The University of Indianapolis Beyond Borders Team continues its humanitarian and scientific mission this month with the installation of water stations in South Texas. Led by Krista Latham, director of the University of Indianapolis Human Identification Center and associate professor of biology and anthropology, the team continued its collaboration with the South Texas Human Rights Center with the goal of preventing migrant deaths by installing the water stations.
Latham’s research and field work has brought national attention to the humanitarian crisis happening at the border. Since 2013, Latham and her graduate students on the Beyond Borders Team have been working with other organizations and universities to uncover remains from unmarked grave sites and identify the bodies of those who have died while making the journey to the United States.
Latham explained that the water stations are an important extension of the project’s ongoing work in South Texas.
“Our work would not be necessary if there were not so many deaths in the desert due to overheating and dehydration. This could partly be prevented by providing life-saving water. I believe our humanitarian aid contributions to this crisis are expressed in many different ways,” she said.
The group’s current trip to Brooks County involved the team successfully raising $750 to cover the cost of supplies for ten water stations. The students will prepare and set up the water stations at various locations throughout the county, which covers 944 square miles of brush land and desert.
“It is our hope that the donation and our work in setting up the new water stations will save countless lives,” Latham said.
The Beyond Borders Team will also participate in searches for the remains of those who died while crossing the border. If remains are located, Latham’s group will assist in recovering the remains so they can be identified and repatriated home.
“As forensic specialists we volunteer a very specific skill set that contributes to the identification and repatriation of the unidentified migrants in the Texas Borderlands, but on a broader scale we are working to promote basic human rights. We are treating these individuals with dignity in death as we work towards giving them a name and a memory,” Latham said.
“This opportunity represents hands-on training in the practice of global citizenship by empowering the students to utilize their education in a way that operates to promote a sense of common humanity and social responsibility. Promoting human rights and working for social justice in this unique situation will provide UIndy students the opportunity to grow professionally and personally,” Latham said.
Angela Zimmer, who is pursuing a master’s degree in human biology, is a team rookie on the trip.
“We are so proud of all we were able to achieve, but the reason for our work here has not been lost on us. The water stations we built today may save lives. The searches we conduct may help bring loved ones back to their families. Did we put in a lot of work today? Absolutely, but our work here is not finished. We’ve reached one goal but we’re only just getting started,” she said.