National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Cover story
Issue Date:  September 19, 2003

Enrique Morones, second from right, and Border Angels volunteers prepare to set up seven water stations.
-- Rick Reinhard/Impact Digitals
Former Padres executive takes on ‘missionary work’


San Diego

If you are a Padres fan and a Latino, you’ve probably heard of Enrique Morones. Former Padres president Larry Lucchino (now Red Sox president) hired Morones in the 1990s as vice president of Hispanic and international marketing for the San Diego Padres.

The job: Reach out to the Latino community. In three years, says the bubbling, brawny Morones -- a former top-rated marathon runner “many pounds ago” over a meal of carnitas in San Diego Old Town’s Coyote Grill -- “We went in three years from 50,000 Latino fans to 600,000.”

A month after the new Padres leadership team came in, Morones’ job was eliminated.

“Unbelievable? The Latino community took to the front pages of the papers criticizing the Padres for abandoning the Latino population. But these things happen,” said Morones. “I’m a man of faith, so I didn’t make a big deal of it. I knew it was wrong but I moved forward.”

There are dozens of Latinos who don’t know Morones’ name -- but his actions may indirectly help save their lives. Parched men and women who cross the desert in 115-degree heat and stumble on a “Border Angels” water station.

Immigrants guided over the border by “coyotes” in the killing desert that embraces the California-Mexico border an hour beyond San Diego are told they can reach San Diego in a day. “No one tells them it’s a 24-hour day just to reach the interstate,” said Morones.

When dropped by the Padres, Morones, now 42, made a decision: to live off his small savings for a year and “dedicate myself exclusively to a program called Water Stations. Missionary work.” He had been volunteering with a parish group that delivered food and clothing to immigrants who live in San Diego’s many canyons. That experience moved him to make the decision.

He became Water Stations’ president and brought its blankets-and-food Winter Stations program in under a common title, Border Angels.

In addition to summer and winter work, Border Angels builds houses in Tijuana, donates needed goods to Casa del Migrante (see accompanying stories 1 and 2) and protests at the prisons where immigrants are held. “We’re all volunteers. We have other jobs,” he said.

Morones’ job -- it doesn’t pay much but he loves it -- is a two-hour 3-5 p.m. Monday-through-Friday Spanish-language talk show broadcast out of San Diego. And he’s a good talker.

Mexico President Vicente Fox, not long after taking office, had the 45 Mexican consulates in the United States form groups of Latino community leaders to press for improved U.S.-Mexican relations through five commissions whose focuses are legal, political affairs, education, health care and business.

Morones, who was on the legal affairs commission, was in the President’s palace in Mexico City for a commission meeting and, not being shy by nature -- he has an international marketing degree from the University of San Diego -- “asked for the floor for a couple of minutes.”

“I said, ‘We are missing a very important commission, and I can give you 3,000 reasons why. A Border Commission, and the 3,000 are those who died.’ ” (Some estimates do put the border death figure beyond the currently used 2,300.)

There was an immediate and prolonged standing ovation, he said. A Border Commission was formed. Morones was named its chair.

National Catholic Reporter, September 19, 2003

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