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The centerpiece of President Donald Trump’s plan to make America great again – starting with construction of new border wall prototypes – began this year in San Diego, thrusting the region into the national spotlight.
And when national reporters sought a voice for immigrant advocates, time and again they turned to Enrique Morones, director of Border Angels, a nonprofit that advocates for immigrant rights.
Reporters regularly tailed Morones to Friendship Park on days when gates on the border fence swung open, allowing families to embrace for three minutes at a time. It’s part of the “Opening the Door for Hope,” a project now in its sixth year, which Morones worked with the San Diego Sector’s Border Patrol chief to make possible.
Visitors, journalists and camera crews hiked with Morones into the desert near Jacumba, where they left jugs of water for migrants journeying north from Mexico into the United States. Along the way, Morones educated visitors – many of them new to the border region – about how measures to secure the border over the past 20 years have pushed migrants further into the desert, where some met their death. Morones brings visitors to an Imperial Valley graveyard to remember those who died alone while making the journey, only to be buried in unmarked graves.
It’s an attempt to show the toll border-security measures have already taken on human lives – and to also to show what’s at stake, both with respect to immigration policies, and the way we simply talk to one another.
Border security and tougher immigration policies may be driving the current administration, but over the past year, Morones has been a constant voice of resistance to that rhetoric. In doing so, he’s advocated for immigrant communities both locally and nationally and put a human face on the suffering that often results from efforts to secure the border.
And in spite of – or perhaps, because of – the Trump administration’s views toward immigration and border security, Morones and Border Angels attracted more volunteers than ever.
“While some people want to build walls, I want to open doors,” Morones said.
This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego in 2017.