Magazine article The New American

Latino Immigration Reformers: Ignoring Conventional Wisdom, Americans of Hispanic Descent Are at the Forefront in the Battle against Illegal Immigration

Magazine article The New American

Latino Immigration Reformers: Ignoring Conventional Wisdom, Americans of Hispanic Descent Are at the Forefront in the Battle against Illegal Immigration

Article excerpt

Lupe Moreno and Angie Morfin Vargas grew up the daughters of a bracero. Their father was one of the five million temporary contract guest workers who crossed the U.S./Mexican border between 1942 and 1964 to work in America's agricultural fields. Like many other braceros, Jesus "Jesse" Morfin periodically returned to Mexico, but ultimately settled in the United States. With his American-born wife and their four children, Morfin lived a dual life--publicly a hard-working immigrant, privately a smuggler of illegal aliens.

Lupe Moreno helped her father run a safe house for illegal immigrants, in addition to attending school, running a household, and toiling in the fields. Today she lives in the same Santa Ana, California, house she grew up in, but in an unlikely twist of fate, she and her sister Angie now devote much of their time to campaigning against illegal immigration. As president of the 200-member Latino Americans for Immigration Reform, Lupe Moreno has emerged as one of California's most vocal Hispanic activists speaking out against the illegal immigration invasion.

Forged by Adversity

The second eldest of four children, Lupe Moreno spent her early years in the northern California town of Cottonwood. It was there during the mid-1960s that her father first started running his immigrant smuggling operation. Jesse Morfin, a paper mill employee, paid smugglers between $350 and $400 for each illegal delivered. At first, only family members were smuggled, but Morfin learned to avoid the smuggler's fee by expanding the pipeline to include non-family members. Upon delivery, he would then distribute the illegal workers to the ranches in Tehema or Shasta Counties. Smuggling was a profitable business, but the life of a coyote was filled with risk. The stress associated with the illegal operation eventually destroyed the Morfin family. Lupe's mother left her dad and kids when Lupe was only 10 years old, and relocated to Los Angeles, no longer willing to tolerate the constant flow of strangers and fearful of prosecution.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Morfin moved to Santa Ana, California, in a last-ditch effort to restore the broken marriage. His refusal to abandon the smuggling trade, however, doomed the reconciliation attempt to failure. Mrs. Morfin refused to reunite with her husband, and conditions worsened in the Morfin household after it became apparent that the marriage was irrevocably broken. Intimidated by a growing number of aggressive visitors, Mr. Morfin took long absences from the scene, visiting only occasionally to give Lupe money to pay the bills and purchase food.

Lupe Moreno, an 11-year-old girl in a parentless household, now assumed the responsibility of caring for her siblings. Without a mother or father to protect them, the four school-aged Morfin children were physically and emotionally abused by illegal immigrants passing through the house. It was a brutal existence that would scar Lupe and her sister Angie for life.

Jesse Morfin was eventually arrested by the INS in 1973. After serving three months in prison, he relocated to King City, California, where he found work in the fields. At age 16, Lupe dropped out of school and married Marcial Moreno, a Mexican national and illegal immigrant who had been living in the Morfin household. After giving birth to her fifth child at age 22, she finally earned her high school diploma. Afterwards, she secured a position in the county immunization department. It was there, while serving large numbers of illegal immigrants, that Moreno began to realize the true economic and social cost of the illegal alien invasion. The story might have ended there, but in 1990, an event occurred that profoundly altered the lives of Lupe Moreno and her sister, Angie Morfin Vargas, and compelled them to take action.

An Activist Awakening

Ruben Morfin, Angie Morfin Vargas' son, was just 13 years old in 1990 when he was shot in the head by Ezequiel Mariscal while walking home from a party. …

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