They can't hear us.
That's the second thing you're not hearing in the media.
No hearing. Anywhere.
If you've not read Part 1 of this story, please navigate there and do so. Context is important.
It's hard to describe the feeling of shame and disgust that comes from seeing yet another example of the hateful part of my home state being described in the media.
My Texas values involve a unique balance of independence and loyalty. Those qualities are my birthright and they inform every part of my worldview.
My Texas is home to a majority of people who believe in fairness, civility, justice and opportunity.
And then there are the those other folks who make up the rest of us, the not-my-Texas Texans. The folks who are currently in control.
Not-my-Texas has devolved into a stronghold for the meanest kind of conservative "values". Those "values" are an overdone barbecue of small mindedness and fear, with some hate sauce served on the side.
My ancestors fought in the war for Texas' independence from Mexico, eight generations ago. No matter where I've lived in America, my love for Texas has only grown stronger. There is just something about a land where the wide-open sky always comprises at least half of the blue horizon, where it's possible to go from piney woods to arid desert to beaches and mountains without ever leaving.
It hurts my heart when my beloved home becomes, yet again, the center of negative press, rightfully the result of criminal policy decisions.
Certainly, the location of criminal internment camps for children and adults in Texas is partly due to geography. But most of all it is due to the complicity of our current political leadership that unfairly controls our state and federal government.
Here in Texas they do their devil's errands with a self-righteous zeal that they bestow upon themselves through gerrymandering along with a Texas-sized bucket of base desire for unbalanced, unhinged and unjust power.
Anyway, so, Tornillo.
It's here. In my state. It's drive-able from my home in Dallas if you're a person who likes to see things for herself and grew up in Texas where 500 miles really isn't very far.
500 miles to the border. With love.
Photo: Jose Luis Gonzalez / Reuters
Arriving in the middle of current events to take a look around seems to be a pattern with me. Maybe a hobby? A compulsion? It's happened more than a few times. Driving to Tornillo was never in question. The question was what would I do when I arrived?
Would I just stand there with a sign reading "this is bullshit?"
That seemed like a pretty good idea to me.
I started researching more about the camp and the Port of Entry there.
In studying every photo I could find on the Internet I was struck with a haunting thought....
Photo- Mike Blake/Reuters
Photo- Mike Blake/Reuters
I've never been in prison, but I have been in jail for short periods a couple of times. In jail it's hard to get a good read on what is happening anywhere but in the jail. Without outside visitors it's impossible.
And besides, what would anyone in a position to tell these kids anything say if they were allowed to do so?
"The president changed his mind again, go play cards"
"We don't know where your parents are or when you'll see them again, but here's some soup"
The day I drove to Tornillo there were no less than 3 policy changes in the 9 hours it took me to drive across Texas. Given the moving target formerly know as justice, combined with the documented rigidity of the systems used to maintain order in detention facilities, these children might as well be in sound-proof booths.
When I arrived in Tornillo the truth about our latest national shame became much clearer.
Photo- Ivan Pierre Aguirre
Before I left I kept seeing this photo online. Kids playing soccer.
They seem to be close to the photographer. There had already been a large protest with lots of politicians, activists and concerned citizens who seemed to be making lot of of noise.
Surely the kids could hear that? Surely it helped them see that they are not alone even if their captors weren't telling them much?
I fully expected that I would be able to join others and send them some kind of message. There had to be some way to let them know that love and support for them by at least some Americans exists outside their tents?
Nope. Not even close.
None of the photos I saw prepared me for the sheer size of the facility or the distance from the public to the prisoners.
It was hard to get a sense of the layout looking at photos. Clearly, the river is the border, but from what direction were the photos taken? Where were the tents and where were the protestors?
Most of all, where was it possible to wave or hold up a sign written in Spanish that read something like "NOS IMPORTA!!" (We care), from what point would that work best?
Here's what I found...
Photo- Ivan Pierre Aguirre/Texas Observer
The tents cannot be seen from the entrance to the Port.
They are positioned behind permanent structures that are quite a distance from the only places the public is allowed to assemble or even enter. The only part of this internment camp that is visible from the good old U.S.A. is some hazy white roof lines behind some far-off buildings.
However, the tents are CLEARLY visible from the other side of the river and border fence.
Seems to say "F. U. American elected officials, journalists and citizens who want to know what the hell our nation is up to."
And "F.U., Mexico. Just because we can."
I'm sure there are many, many, very,very good reasons that many, many people say are important about the placement of that tent jail.
I am certain that it's critical the local police, local sheriff's deputies and Texas Department of Public Safety patrols are necessary to guard this entry on American soil in a facility Americans pay for, in case somebody wants to get fishy. I'm certain.
I'm also certain that it does a damn good job of hiding an immigration Frankenstein nobody knows what to do about.
And I know for sure that the big, tall fence won't keep the people we are imprisoning from coming here to steal our worst-paying jobs that no one else will do.
We probably need 2000 miles of higher walls made of concrete, preferably gilded in a nice gold leaf, just in case they want to be paid $8 per hour to pick some fruit for a factory orchard or push wheelbarrows for 10 hours a day.
Or maybe they want out of here? I've forgotten.
In kid prison, no one can hear you scream.
One thing is for sure. The site where every politician, celebrity, activist, concerned citizen or rubbernecker who has converged on Tornillo in the past two weeks has been halted by razor wire and loaded guns.
They've all been a long damn way from the spot where the kid prisoners are eating their cereal.
Amber Heard is seen in the second photo. She's from Austin and she used to be a lesbian before she married Johnny Depp and dated Elon Musk. And her protest outfit is PERFECT. Congrats to her stylist.
Except she has her back to the kids and her sign is in English. But again, not knocking anybody.
U.S. Conference of Mayors press conference. So, so, far from anyone who needs them.
I wrote about this in Part 1.
Here's another view that gives you a better picture of how far away the protestors are from the kids.
This photo was taken while I was there.
Photo- Ivan Pierre Aguirre/Texas Observer
Me. Again. And I promise this is getting somewhere. Hold, please.
So I'm standing there watching the international press corps and 20 mayors talk about the children and I'm thinking something along the lines of
"Why doesn't anybody talk about how to address the way it must feel to be in a weird prison tent not knowing if anyone gives a crap about you or when you'll see your parent or parents again?
Why doesn't anybody make signs or speeches intended for them?."
So, ok. In the bazillion words I've written about this shitshow so far, I haven't been completely honest...
Continuing the "Here Comes Rhymin' Simon" theme, here's another view of the bridge over troubled waters.
And again, the protest site is not visible.
The truth is, before I headed toward the border I did think about the possibility that it might be tough to get close enough to the kids to send some love. Actually, that's exactly why I went.
A ditch, a bridge, a fence and a river.
And a whole bunch of beehives. (not pictured)
Over the last week the swarms of photographers trying to get a close shot of the Tornillo camp have used the longest lenses available for purchase, camera drones flown from Mexico and the skilled ability to run away from the Border Patrol and ICE, really, really fast.
Despite those efforts there were very few photos available before and during my trip.
(More have appeared in the past few days since there has been limited, supervised access to the inside, granted to a few politicians and members of the press. Supervised mini-tours intended to try ato fade some hotter-than-Tornillo heat)
The entire Port of Entry is surrounded by a razor wire and chain link fence or a high fence or blocked by semi trucks placed there to shield the camp from view.
Because the Rio Grande river provides a slim but extremely fertile valley of rich farm land, there are fruit and pecan orchards everywhere.
There are also other green growing salad-y looking plants.
I'm not a farmer.
It is my understanding that in order to follow the natural order, it is necessary for those trees and plants to be pollinated by bees.
As such, there are stacks of beehives along the road and border fence, everywhere you look. And those bees are busy.
Bees and Border Patrol agents both sting.
That is true even if you are a law-abiding American citizen, on American soil, holding your passport above your head while eating a hot dog and wearing red, white and blue Nikes and a baseball jersey.
If you approach, you get stung.
Skulking around trying to get a good view or shoot a clear, high sales price photo is not easy.
I figured as much before I even saw the place.
This is known as projection bombing. It is perfectly legal in the United States of America as it falls under the First Amendment right to free speech. At least that was true this morning, but by now, who knows?
So here's where we get very hypothetical.
I mean, REALLY hypothetical.
Let's imagine that a person, a U.S. citizen, wanted to project something somewhere.
One of the first requirements of this procedure is that the surface upon which the image is to be projected is, ideally, both uniform and light in color.
I would suppose that white is a good color for that projection target.
Let's suppose that a person, a U.S. citizen wanted to project a perfectly legal and pertinent message on such a surface while standing on what is positively American soil.
Let's suppose that person had a background in both protest and television production that would inform that person that there are several handy devices, like a 750 watt Source Four Leko, that might be handy to shine a light containing a message for someone somewhere.
All done with a brilliant and staggering 15,000+ lumens of light.
Let's suppose a person was concerned about being mobile and avoiding the use of automobile battery to power those lumens, but also supposedly knew that a deep-cycle boat battery and a power converter would do the trick and avoid a potentially dead battery in a First Amendment protected and therefore legally unnecessary getaway car.
And let's suppose that the person we are imagining knew that putting all of those items on a small cart would make them much easier to transport, in the event that such an action might be prudent, for reasons I cannot imagine- aside from bees and Border Patrol agents.
Let's suppose that a person (again, a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil) wanted to say something to a neighbor in a language the neighbor would understand.
Let's suppose the person knew that symbols, like maybe a heart or something, are meaningful in any language and better if combined with a few words that are easy to read. In Spanish. On a gobo in a Source Four lighting instrument?
And just for grins, let's suppose a person had a sharpie in a place with a lot of little rocks. What would that person write on those rocks? How would that person turn those rocks into projectiles, aimed at, say, a field where sports are played?
What might you suppose about all of that?
And would you suppose that a person who performed that perfectly legal exercise in lighting magic would be anxious to take selfies to carry along after achieving their lighting goals, maybe just in case they wanted to prove to any handy authority figure that they had committed an act that is perfectly legal but potentially sort of problematic ?
I don't. But I could be wrong.
Most of all, would that person be willing to describe in a public forum exactly how they achieved the goal of projecting love sent to children?
I suppose that would be a bad idea if they intended to go back or help other lighting enthusiasts perform the same task?
These are all questions about which I wonder. Don't you?
Most of all I suppose that children who are wrongfully detained in a tent jail and away from their parents deserve a little subversive messaging. And a hug. And to be freed.
Oh, and one more thing.... What if that person also visited the decades-old white tent ICE prison in Sierra Blanca, Texas.
That detention facility that houses adults is only about 40 miles down the road. I suppose that would be close enough to check out, too.
The photo below is not an advertisement, except it is. But it is intended to be included here for reasons only you can suppose.
Hey! Steel Gobos are cheap, don't you suppose?
So that's Part 2.
I know it's almost as many miles as the distance from Dallas to Tornillo, but this is proving to be a cathartic exercise at a very sad time for me.
If you're still here, thank you.
Tomorrow, the last installment won't be quite as much fun. It's about what all of this means.
Although I did promise to tell you about the truck driver and the bottle of pee.
We do care.
Even when men with guns are blocking access to crimes, we are speaking in English and have our backs turned north, away from the people who need to read the message.