Tribuno del Pueblo: What prompted you to found the Border Angels?
Enrique Morones: In 1986 a friend of mine who was bringing food and water to migrants in the canyons invited me to come with her. I was horrified. In 1996, I started bringing food and water to the people in the desert. Now there are over 20 other groups doing this. My family and my faith brought me into this struggle. We are a faith based organization guided by Matthew 25:35 "When I was hungry, who gave me to eat? When I was thirsty, who gave me to drink?"
TP: What major events have the Border Angels conducted?
EM: We have protested Proposition 187 and "Operation Gatekeeper," the fence building along the border. In 2006, we led the Migrant March I, a caravan from San Diego to Washington D.C. We met with the immigration rights leaders along the way and asked communities to take a stand against HR 4437. This was a huge success--over 3.5 million people marched across the US against HR 4437.
In February 2007 we led Migrant March II and crossed the entire U.S./Mexico border. We collected stories from along the border and held an All People's Immigration Hearing to share them and then took the stories to Washington. Next year we plan to caravan from San Diego to Canada and back to look at issues facing migrants that are crossing in the Northeast and working to get people to vote.
TP: What is your goal?
EM: To turn people's hearts around and help our brothers and sisters. Changing one life at a time is what we are all about. We can not have people dying across the desert. There have been over 10,000 deaths in the past 13 years. Officially 4,500, but we think it is much higher. They are just coming here to work and be with their families. People need to understand that and we need a humane means of entry into the country.
TP: What are the conditions you are seeing along the border?
EM: Increased militarization and more deaths than ever. It is very harsh. The fence has forced people to cross in more extreme areas. People think they are cutting in line but poor people have no other way to enter the country. Now there is also the vigilante group, the Minutemen. I formed a new group, Gente Unida, and over 60 human rights groups have joined. We are not allowing the Minutemen to conduct their tactics here. We are exposing them and shutting them down.
TP: What impact have the ICE raids had?
EM: This is just another abuse of human rights, it is unbelievable. We saw this in Nazi Germany. They are knocking on people's doors at 3 a.m. and breaking up families. These children will never forget how their parents were terrorized. We asked for a moratorium on the raids. It's also racial profiling; you never see raids in the Irish community. Regardless of who, it is absolutely wrong, no one should be raided. It is horrible, terrible.
TP: What do you think the biggest issue is in regards to immigration along the border?
EM: Human rights abuses and the hypocrisy of the U.S. government preaching about human rights abuses elsewhere. The U.S. invaded Iraq to distract people; this Administration is the master of mass deception. You are seeing the worst of Americans in the Minutemen and the war in Iraq. But, the people have been resisting. We need to continue to peacefully resist and we will achieve change.