BY TERESA RISTOW
Regardless of your familyâ€™s origins or the color of your skin, one thing among U.S. citizens is alike,
â€œWe all want humane immigration reform.â€
This was the message Enrique Morones, founder of the humanitarian organization Border Angels, shared last week at SOU. Morones told the history of his volunteer non-profit group, which was founded in 1986 in response to deaths of people immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico. Morones explained that back then, one or two people died every month crossing through the canyons into California.
â€œOperation Gatekeeper,â€ a 1994 Clinton-era measure, enforced stricter border patrol by the Immigration and Naturalizations Service. This caused people immigrating to form a new route through the mountains and desert. What was one or two people a month dying became one or two a day, Morones said.
Shortly after, in 2005, Senate bill HR 4437 was put to congress, proposing a 700 mile fence between the U.S. and Mexico, and significantly stricter regulations on immigration. The bill would classify illegal immigrants, and those who helped them remain in the country, as felons.
â€œHow is it possible that this country preaches human rights, and builds a wall between their neighbors?â€ Morones said.
This is when Border Angels took flight, caravanning over 100 cars from San Diego to Washington D.C., protesting and demanding immigration reform.
Throughout early 2006, protests and rallies took place nationwide, opposing the bill and supporting immigrant rights.
â€œYou remember, you were there,â€ Morones said.
The protests were some of the largest in U.S. history with hundreds of thousands of people marching through cities like Chicago and Los Angeles
Though the bill ultimately didnâ€™t make it past the Senate, the Border Angels have not backed down on their fight for immigrant rights.
Morones, who gave parts of his lecture in both English and Spanish, explained the importance of humane immigration reform by opposing arguments against illegal immigration, explaining that today there is no legal immigration from Mexico.
â€œPeople say why donâ€™t you go get in line?â€ Morones said, â€œWell, there is no line.â€
According to Morones, people come to America for the same reasons they always have, economic opportunity and family reunification.
â€œIf they were rich, why would they leave?â€ Morones asked.
Morones explained the U.S. today as having a â€œtremendous rise in hate,â€ fueled by an economic downturn. The answer to fighting through this, Morones said, is to realize that we were all once immigrants.
â€œAt one time we were all being oppressed,â€ Morones said.
Morones said that some people argue simply in favor of obeying the law.
â€œYes, it is the law, but child labor was once the law,â€ Morones said, â€œSlavery was once the law, women not voting was once the law.â€
Morones passed out pre-written letters to President Obama to the audience, and encouraged everyone to sign their name, and demand â€œhumane immigration reform.â€
For more information about Enrique Morones and the work of the Border Angels, visit www.borderangels.org.