(the following is my understanding of all that we discussed, and I hope that it is mostly accurate. If I had more time, and a computer, I could do some more research to verify the information, but I don't have those resources at the moment.)
In the morning, we met with Enrique Morones of Border Angels. The work of the organization started in 1986, in the Carlsbad Canyon area where we went to the mass on Sunday. That is when the mass started happening, as huge amounts of people at that time were camping in the area--men, women and families. They started their annual walk back in the early days to raise funds, 50% of which stayed to keep up the work in the area, the other 50% being used to finance microloans and such back in the pueblos of Oaxaca to give people the option not to migrate. This was the bulk of their work for the first 10 years and in 1996, the group also started to place water in the desert for migrants crossing.
Prior to 9/11, most of the deaths of migrants crossing happened in California, so this was very important work. Enrique has been widely recognized for his efforts, and has been featured in all sorts of television shows and films. In 2001, he was brought on a Mexican TV show called Sabado Gigante (Giant Saturday) which is a show that includes interviews and skits and circus acts and anything you can think of and has a duration of 3 or 4 hours each Saturday morning. It was there that the host called Enrique and the other volunteers border angels, and thus their name was born. Shortly thereafter, they gained 501c3 status under the name Border Angels.
Since then, Border Angels (Enrique and volunteers) have continued to place water, though less and less as there are now around 20 organizations doing water drops along the border. It seems a large portion of the Border Angels work is about raising awareness around the issues. In 2005, they begun an annual Migrant March, the first of which went from San Diego to D.C. via 40 U.S. cities. The Migrant March has happened annually since then, always beginning on February 2 which is the Dia de la Candelaria (the day when the person who got the baby in their rosca de reyes' has to make tamales and throw a party) and the anniversary of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in which U.S. gained/stole 50% of Mexico's land. The march always has a different route and focus, all of which can be found on their website. The theme for 2012 is Cesar Chavez and the route will go along a farm worker trail in California.
Border Angels has also undergone initiatives to disrupt the Minutemen Movement, who formed in April 2005. The Minutemen tore through the migrant camps in the canyons, destroying all the people's possessions and Border Angels created an initiative called Gente Unida, a coalition of organizations against the Minutemen. On the Border Angels website, you can read hateful emails from Minutemen and watch videos of the Minutemen movement in San Diego (I have not read/watched them). Much to the contrary, also on the Border Angels website is a huge list of migrants who have died crossing.
Meeting with Enrique was really amazing. His passion and knowledge in the area of immigration is astounding and it helps that he has a great sense of humor. It seems that Border Angels is almost a one-man operation and he is constantly traveling and speaking and working all over the world. Before we came and since being here, he is the constant name that we were told to contact. It was really great to be able to have the chance to meet with him. We hope to be able to go on some excursions with him later this week.
|Enrique Morones of Border Angels|
After being totally amped up by Enrique, in the afternoon, we met with Christian Ramirez of the American Friends Service Committee, which is the activist organization of the Quakers. We met at Chicano Park and he started our meeting by telling us a little of the history of the area.
|Eric with Christian Ramirez of AFSC at Chicano Park|