Questions still: a year of living with the unknown

A year ago, through his brother-in-law Eddie, I learned how a Los Angeles area hair salon owner named Andy had gone missing along the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to return home after burying his mother in Sinaloa. A few weeks after his disappearance, Andy’s large family of brothers and sisters, spouses and cousins, nieces and nephews-in-law were scared and anxious. They turned to each other and individually they turned to outside sources including friends, hospitals, law enforcement and psychics on both sides of the border, even questioning the potentially dangerous coyote smugglers paid to safely guide Andy home – but they weren’t finding answers. One year later, they know barely anything more than they did when Andy first went missing. Here’s what they know (also used to generate Andy’s timeline):

Born in Sinaloa in November 1965, Andy came to the United States in the 1980s.

MFM blog update: timeline of a disappearance

A year ago, Andy’s family was coming to the realization that something had gone wrong. Instead of making an illegal and dangerous border crossing from Mexico to the U.S. somewhere in southern Arizona, Andy had disappeared. Now, just over a year later, they still do not know what happened to him. But they have worked with me on developing a timeline of Andy’s travel between Mexico and the U.S. which is posted today.

Not as planned

Well. Last Thursday, things did not go as planned

Well, unless the plan was to spend 3 hours in the desert trying to reach my source and hoping he was just running late (he wasn’t), things did not go as planned. The appointment had been to find out about an active search for a 21-year-old man who disappeared approximately 7 weeks ago. I’d spoken to the man leading that day’s trip and tracked down the phone number of the missing man’s father, who’d come to Tucson from Tennessee in hopes of finding answers, the original tip coming from a mass email:

“Could you please run on the [humanitarian organization] site a notice that there is a father here from [a southern state] who has been looking for his 21 yo son left by his group 5 weeks ago and please call and take him out if people have time?…He has been here in Tucson for five weeks, living on the street and searching daily…He’s been sent a map of where to look but it’s a very bad map from the person who was with his son and was apprehended and deported. The map maker would like to be paid for a better map……..BTW, he’s already checked the morgue (negative) and I will check hospitals today.”

From the field: counting cars

A small border town scene: while waiting to meet someone this morning, I counted at least 27 Border Patrol vehicles (also 1 Immigration Customs Enforcement, several federal land management & multiple local emergency service vehicles) passing through Robles Junction between 6:14 & 7:13. (then as I type this: 3 more USBP & 1 ICE getting gas)

Filing the report

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard from Eddie. His latest call, just before the end of March, is unexpected but follow-up on my part is probably overdue. There’s no new information about Andy. Instead Eddie has called to give me report numbers. Eddie’s wife has filed a missing persons report with NAMUS, a national missing persons database.

Meeting the Desert in Arizona

Before moving to Arizona in 2009, I had only briefly been in desert conditions, a few winter days in the Negev that included the view from Masada towards the Dead Sea, all dunes and crags and distance. Driving south from Phoenix for the first time, I was confused – I looked for sand but saw scrub. From the highway, I was looking at a landscape full of plants. The trip could be made in two hours and I was told that crossing points in Nogales were only an hour further. The temperature dropped as we rose in elevation.

Faces in the News: what they tell us about reporting and about the border

You may be wondering why I’m spending so much time to tell you about individual stories like Eddie and Andy. Since I expect personal stories to come up a lot here, let’s go ahead and talk about it. Journalism is strongest when it tells about an issue or event through people. People who were there, people who made it happen, people who were affected – their information, stories, images and voices are known in academic research as primary sources. A reporter who ties stories together and shows you the people they met creates a much more engaging experience than one who sits in front of you and tells you about the people that he, and he alone, spoke with.