Enrique Morones, president and founder of Border Angels — a San Diego-based nonprofit organization devoted to immigration and human rights work — called attention to humanitarian issues in today’s global immigration situation in a talk on Tuesday.
Morones said he founded Border Angels in 1986 when he saw migrant workers living outdoors all year in the canyons of the San Diego area, which he said “touched his heart.”
“I’m a firm believer that when you want to have change, it starts from you,” Morones said.
Driven by the goal of preventing immigration deaths and providing humanitarian support for immigrants, the Border Angels started the “water drops” initiative in 1996, which leaves dozens of gallon jugs of water in the desert along high-traffic migrant paths, according to its website.
Morones said that in 2006 he led 111 cars full of activists and American citizens across the country from San Diego to Washington D.C. on a “Marcha Migrante” to encourage people to “pay attention” to immigration issues.
“We went to 40 different cities in 20 different states in 27 days,” Morones said. “It was 10,000 miles.”
According to a College of Arts and Sciences press release, Morones was the first person to be granted U.S.-Mexico dual citizenship in 1998. Major media organizations such as NBC and CBS have interviewed Morones on television, and he won the 2009 National Human Rights Award, given by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
Morones expressed his concerns about the current border and immigration issues in the U.S. and around the globe, calling problems with the immigration system and policies “embarrassing” and “the worst of American spirit.” He encouraged people to break the silence and bring changes for the future.
“It’s not an issue of U.S.-Mexico borders,” he said. “It’s an issue of migrants and human rights. Love has no borders … We need to demonstrate that only love will overcome hate.”
Beyond Border Angels, Morones has also actively advocated for other human rights causes for decades. He said he established close connections with the Muslim community and the gay community to launch campaigns and call for love and equality.
“The United States is one of the 200 great countries in the world,” Morones said. “There’s no country that is greater than the others … and we are all equal.”
Sarah Whalen, a teacher and Ithaca resident who worked with some migrant workers teaching English one year ago, told The Sun she thought the presentation was “powerful.”
“Hearing stories of individual people and having names along with the story makes everything more real,” Whalen said. “It’s important to pay attention. It’s important to really think about what you can do [even] if it’s just something small. And it’s important to not to lose hope.”