San Diego – The California organization Border Angels, known for providing water, food and clothing at remote border locations such as in the Imperial Valley desert, this week celebrates its 25th year of protecting immigrants.
Founded by activist Enrique Morones, the non-profit group has become one of the most visible in the United States for raising awareness about the rough times immigrants face.
This Saturday the Border Angels/Angeles de la Frontera, which numbers some 2,000 volunteers and hundreds of rescue stations along the border, is organizing a fundraiser at the Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego.
Tribute will be paid there to a pioneer in the defense of immigrants and Morones' mentor, Roberto Martinez, a former director of the American Friends Service Committee who died in 2009.
The commemoration will include the presentation of the Roberto Martinez Spirit Award to Chicano screenwriter Josefina Lopez, author of "Real Women Have Curves."
Also to be presented at the event will be the Border Angels lifetime achievement award to California Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, promoter of the state's Dream Act, a measure that provides access to higher education for undocumented students.
"We want to end the unnecessary deaths as a result of extreme temperatures and crimes of racial discrimination to which individuals are exposed by having to cross the desert and mountains east of San Diego and other border areas," Morones told Efe.
The California-born grandson of famous Mexican union leader Luis N. Morones, Enrique Morones, began working in 1986 with Mexican immigrants living in the ravines of northern San Diego County.
Popular Spanish-language television host Don Francisco on one occasion called him a "border angel," which led him to adopt that name for his organization.
"At an event we organized in Los Angeles after the Rodney King disturbances of 1993, Ethel Kennedy, wife of the assassinated politician Robert Kennedy, spoke to me about the importance of the media in raising consciousness, and that's when I decided to become a full-time activist and take on a more visible leadership role," he said.
Since then he has aired his message in defense of immigrants on shows of talking heads like Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs, as well as at universities nationwide, where he tries to expose certain myths for the untruths they are - for example, immigrants don't want to learn English, they don't pay taxes, they raise the crime rate and they're a burden on the economy.
"I, on the contrary, get the word out that 91 percent of the second generation speak English fluently and that the undocumented contribute more than $7 billion annually to the Social Security fund," he said.