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Volunteers hike deadly desert mountains to place water for migrants

‘It gives them that last bit of strength or power to keep going,' volunteer says

SAN DIEGO – Every year, hundreds of people die while attempting to cross the US-Mexico border.

In California, where the state has more than 140 miles of international border, some people die while trying to trek through the desert.

“Aveces encontramos carteras (sometimes we find wallets),” a Border Angels volunteer said. “It’s really hot ... over 100 degrees.”

Volunteers with the Border Angels, a nonprofit organization based in San Diego, have been taking the exact same deadly trek to place water jugs in the Jacumba Mountains.

“It gives them that last bit of strength or power to keep going,” a Border Angels volunteer said.

Many of the Border Angels volunteers said only the border is separating the chance for a better life. 

“People don’t choose just one day to come. It’s life or death reasons why they decided to do this. No one would voluntarily come and do this,” said Adelita Simon, a volunteer with the Border Angels. “For them, this is just the beginning of their journey.”

With the Jacumba Mountains reaching an elevation well above 4,500 feet and less than 6 miles away from the borderline, volunteers said water is simply essential for the people who decide to cross over illegally.

“It’s a very important way of helping out regardless of your background. Water never hurt anybody so these people especially are in need of water after a long travel,” Vanesa Guevera, a Border Angel volunteer, said.

“I think it’s an important thing to also show them that they are so close that people do care about them here,” Guevara said.

Volunteers said during their hike through the Jacumba Mountains, they have not only found wallets but also clothing and rosary cards, possibly left behind by the people who cross into the country.

For sisters Faith and Christine Kwon, they cannot begin to comprehend the circumstances surrounding those who decide to take the leap of faith for America.

“We were lucky enough to be born on this side of the border,” Christine Kwon said.

The Kwon sisters volunteered Friday to get a glimpse of the conditions the migrants face, describing their experience as a powerful one.

“It was honestly very brutal out there,” Christine Kwon said. “It makes me feel just even a little empathy. There’s no way we can understand the extent of crossing this brutal desert.”

Kwon said if the country wants to solve the crisis on the border, every American must look in the mirror and see what type of person they want to be.

“They are having an existential crisis and I don’t mean just the humanitarian crisis we are having on the border at this moment, but an existential crisis as a country. We’re about to find out who we are and what we are,” Christine Kwon said.


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