Illegal immigration was one of most contested topics in 2012. Lost in political squabbling is the inherent danger of those following their dreams to cross the U.S. border in search of the American dollar and the hope of a better life for themselves and their family back home.
Many migrants make the journey safely. Others are caught and deported. Some are sent back home in wooden crates. About 150-250 people a year die attempting to cross the border. About 2,000 have died in the past 10 years according to statistics compiled by No More Deaths and the Arizona Recovered Human Remains Project.
On July 22, 2012, a smuggler driving 22 migrants in a pickup four hours southwest of Houston, crashed the truck into a tree after a the front passenger tire blew. Fifteen people died. Two of them were best friends and cousins, Leonel Tipaz de Leon, 21, and Diego Tipaz Jorge, 16, of Piedras Blancas, Guatemala.
The two cousins shared dreams escaping the cornfields in rural Guatemala where they made about $7 a day.
Just four hours from their destination, Leonel and Diego’s dreams ended. This is their journey back home.
Surviving in Glouster
Glouster, Ohio was once an economic boomtown. Today, the community is living in the shadow of its former self.
Looking to the future
Living in the memories of their most famous and prosperous residents, the people of Glouster, Ohio are forever reminded of the possibilities and greatness they once had in this once thriving coal town.
A better place to die
“You either have to party or walk around because there’s nothing to do here, no movie theatre or nothing,” says Kevin Thompson, 18, as he sits with girlfriend Kayla Shaw, 16, at a popular hang on out for Glouster youth. The same place the Hollywood film “A Place to Die” was filmed, which used Glouster’s rough exterior as a set.
A dying breed
“Glouster’s past is a lot brighter than its future is going to be,” 82-year-old third generation barber, Everett Holmes, said. Once there were six barbershops in the village, soon Holmes says there will be none. Due to the loss of jobs, today 35 percent of Glouster’s residents travel an hour or more for work.
Lost on High Street
As families struggle to survive in Glouster, with about 25 percent of families living below the poverty line, their children wander along High Street in unsupervised packs. “There are fights all the time, we’re tough though,” one said.
Split between its past and future
Like the state of Ohio during 2005’s election, Glouster is divided between its once glorious past and its uncertain future. In the window of the old train depot that was the stop of promise for Americans and internationals alike searching for a piece of that great American pie, children from the local Leo Club have come to help clean up the mess left by passers by where a train no longer stops.
Remembering the glory
Hundreds of coal mines, large and small dotted the landscape in the Athens county area that employed thousands of people. As natural gas and the evolution of the combustion engine gained popularity, coal mines like Glouster’s Hisylvania mine began to close.
Many families in Glouster are eligible for Ohio Work Force Assistance money for their children and less than 10 percent of poor children receive these benefits. Wesley Koon, 4, lives in a two-bedroom trailer with his mother, father, pregnant aunt and her boyfriend along with his four brothers, sisters and cousins.
As if economic problems weren't enough for the people of Glouster, hardened faces meet at the Village Hall for a FEMA meeting after being hit by the second 100-year flood in five years as residents try to obtain funding to replace their losses.
Glouster Holiness Mission, congregant Terry Moody Sr. says they pray for the community of Glouster every week at the oldest church in Glouster, which has stood for more than 100 years. “We need more young people in the church,” he said. “Many of them are lost and we need a revival here.”
Not much to lose
Gutting out her home after the recent flood, Glouster resident Velma Lenigar said, “it’s hard but we’ll get through it,” much like living in Glouster before the flood. The per capita income per person in Glouster is $11,837 with 28 percent of the population living below the poverty line.
Even though Glouster has been living in recovery for decades, its residents still find strength in their community. Many residents choose to stay in the same community they struggle to survive in. At Mollies Bar townies like Dorothea McClelland, 85, and third generation Glouster resident, Donnie Stanley say they wouldn’t live anywhere else. “We’re family here, a community,” McClelland said.
After learning how to fix cars himself Jamie Spears, 26, a high school drop out, now works part-time at a local auto repair shop. To supplement his income, and support his girlfriend who doesn’t work along with his four kids, he receives food stamps to help pay for food. In Glouster 29 percent of high school students will not graduate this year and 35 percent of people will have to travel an hour or more for work.
A new generation
Third and fourth-generations share the same pond their relatives once enjoyed during Glouster's glory year's. Though residents are felling the pressure to leave Glouster for better opportunities, many families are hopeful that Glouster's next generation will usher in a brighter future.
United State of Texas
The state of Texas in the U.S. has seen a 19 percent population growth. The population increase is changing the population, politics, landscape and stereotypes of Texas.
James Byrd remembered
Ten years after the murder of James Byrd Jr., who was dragged almost three miles behind a pick-up truck June 7, 1998. Shawn Allen Berry, then 24, Lawrence Russell Brewer Jr., then 32, and John William King Jr., then 24 were charged with the crime. King and Brewer were sentenced to death and Berry to life in prison for the racially motivated death of James Byrd Jr.
Ten years after the hate crime murder of James Byrd Jr., Jasper County criminal district attorney's Mike Wilson (left) and Richard Drake (right), hold the chain used to drag Byrd behind the pick-up truck on June 7, 1998.
The grave of James Byrd Jr. who was killed in a hate crime when he was pulled behind the pick-up truck in Jasper on June 7, 1998 by Shawn Allen Berry, then 24, Lawrence Russell Brewer Jr., then 32, and John William King Jr., then 24.
Former Jasper County Sheriff Billy Rowles, stands on Huff Creek Road Tuesday, June 3, 2008, just outside of Jasper, where James Byrd Jr., 49, was tied up by a logging chain and dragged almost three miles behind a pick-up truck.
It was right outside the Huff Creek Memorial Chapel on Huff Creek Road where James Byrd's torso was discovered.
Mike Wilson, Jasper County criminal district attorney investigator, was the DA investigator at the time of James Byrd Jr. murder. Wilson feels the sentencing of two death penalties and life in prison for Byrd's three murderers "sent a message to racists across the country."
An old logging road, now overgrown, just off Huff Creek Road, is where James Byrd was beaten and chained to the back of a pick-up truck and dragged almost three miles.
Thousands lined the streets of Jasper while the James Byrd Jr. trial was held inside the Jasper County Courthouse including the media, Klu Klux Klan, Black Panthers, and the public. The event brought nightly national updates from Ted Kopple that was seen around the world in the community of about 5,000.
At left, Dayzha Southwell, 11, Nicole McMullen, 11, and Makayla Riley, 10, play at the Boys and Girls Club of Jasper. The girls said they have heard of James Byrd Jr., before, but were not that familiar with his murder. The Children said they have heard other children use racists words to each other at school, but they don't think it's right.
The pick-up truck that James Byrd Jr., was dragged behind, sits in the Jasper Exxon Towing and Recovery where it hasn't been touched since the trial. The owner of the facility said, "I can't touch it, there's too much evil attached to it."
Betty Boatner, one of Byrds six sisters, stands next her brother's grave in the Jasper City Cemetery. Boatner says she forgives her brother's killers, and says the community has been changed for the better through his death. However, she never wants people to forget the fact that, "he was killed because he was black."