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Enrique Morones highlights human side of immigration policy debates

<rco Antonio, a 5 year-old Mexican boy, staggers haltingly through the searing heat of the Texan desert. Throat as dry as the air surrounding him and lips as cracked as the crusted sand beneath his feet, he begs his father for a taste of water. Yet his father refuses him; so do the other eighteen men stumbling along in front. It may seem unbelievably cruel to deny water to a dehydrated five-year-old in danger of dying, but they had an excuse. The eighteen men, and his father, were dead. They had died of dehydration, and were soon followed by Marco Antonio.

This story, one of several Enrique Morones told during his speech, highlights the dire situation Mexican immigrants face in attempting to cross the border between their home country and the United States. After the wall was built between the two, the number of immigrant deaths rose from 1-2 a month to 2-3 a day due to the extreme weather conditions of the desert they now have to brave. Morones reveals these staggering numbers, as well as others, in his description of what it is he and his organization do, for example, there are more than 10,000 people dead, lost in the desert, and there are estimated to be more than double 4,500 men, women, and children who have died crossing the border since 1994.

Border Angels, founded by Morones in 1986, is a non-profit organization that provides assistance to the migrant workers on the border between Mexico and America, providing water, food, clothing, and other assistance to the impoverished in the area. Their mission is stated in an excerpt from Matthew 25:35, “When I was hungry, who gave me to eat?- When I was thirsty, who gave me to drink?”

Morones was inspired to begin Border Angels after a trip to the canyons of North San Diego. Upon arrival to this area, not more than a few hours away from his own home, he was devastated to find families living outdoors, exposed to the elements. The sight of such extreme poverty and abandonment moved Morones to action, and he began volunteering any assistance he could, albeit quietly. Then, at Cesar Chávez’s funeral in 1993, Morones struck up a conversation with the woman sitting beside him. He began to tell her about Border Angels and the immigrants living in the canyons, and was unsurprised to hear she was unaware of the situation, as unaware as he had been. Ethel Kennedy, the woman he was speaking with, then told him in an inspiring phrase he related to the convocation, “Injustice here is injustice everywhere, and you should let people know about it.” Thus, he vowed to himself to be more vocal about the changes that desperately need to be made.

In his speech, Morones explained the seemingly futile position of the Mexican community wishing to enter America. 85% of them come here purely for economic reasons;, as they are unable to make money in Mexico. If they were able to make money in their own country, Morones explains, they would much rather stay there. However, with NAFTA’s support of subsidized corn, families in Mexico can’t afford to feed their families. They also can’t afford VISAs, and therefore have no legal way to get into a country they need to enter in order to keep food on the table. This is why Border Angels promotes humane comprehensive immigration reform. Immigrants like Marco Antonio and his father represent the thousands of lives that could have been saved were there a humane path to American residency. The families too poor to afford VISAs represent the need for a comprehensive route to American citizenship and these reforms need to occur before thousands more are killed.

Yet, Morones pointed out, bill H.R. 4437 was passed. H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act, was ratified in December of 2005, spurring Morones and 100 cars-worth of supporters to drive for 27 days across 40 cities in protest. As a result, they were able to hold several marches one of which consisted of over one million participants. Then, during the 2008 election season Morones undertook another cross-country drive, spreading the message, your vote your voice. “We’re a non-partisan organization,” Morones assured the crowd; Border Angels supports the party in favor of immigration reform.

In conclusion, Morones left the Chapel with a story he had been told of a little boy walking across the beach with his father. The tide was leaving and there were hundreds of starfish scattered across the sand. Seeing this, the little boy began to pick them up one by one and toss them with all his might back into the sea. After a few moments, the boy’s father turned to him and asked him what he was doing. The boy replied that the water was running away and leaving the starfish to die in the dry sand. The father shook his head, took the boy by the shoulder, and told him that there were many thousands of starfish on this beach, and it wouldn’t matter how many he saved in comparison; even if he saved hundreds it was still only a small number. The boy looked at his father, looked at the star fish lying in his palm, looked back at his father, and told him that it mattered to the ones he saved.

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