A whipping wind swept through a crowd in front of the Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building on Saturday, but to Manni Guillen, it felt warm.
“I appreciate Juneau a lot and I appreciate you guys being out here,” Guillen said. “There’s a saying that it gets kind of cold out there in the world. People get mean to each other, and you guys are out here making it a little bit warmer.”
Guillen was one of the featured speakers at Saturday’s Love Knows No Borders rally in Juneau. He spoke to more than 150 people who had gathered, and the crowd swelled to around 200 at its peak.
He talked about how his family came from Tijuana to Juneau when he was a baby, and how Juneau was all he’s ever known. He talked about how his father was deported when Guillen was only 5 years old, and how people in the community supported him and his family. That kindness, he said, meant a great deal to him.
At Saturday’s rally, showing that support was a focus. It was specifically to show support for those attempting to flee Mexico for the United States and who are being stopped at the border and separated from their families. The rally is part of a nationwide movement called Love Knows No Borders, which invites people to make their voices heard between Dec. 10 (International Human Rights Day) and Dec. 18 (International Migrant Day).
One goal of the event was to raise money for Border Angels, a nonprofit that focuses on immigration reform with a particular focus on the U.S.-Mexico border. Hatch said the rally raised more than $1,100 for the nonprofit. Guillen, who has spent time working with the organization, said Border Angels lives up to its name.
The event was organized by Juneau People for Peace and Justice and featured speakers of various backgrounds and experiences when it came to the issue of immigration.
Christianne Carillo gave a particularly moving speech, recounting her journey from the Philippines when she was 7 years old. She told the story of trying to get the rest of her family into the country and not being successful despite doing everything that was required by law. She finished her speech referring to the recent case of a Guatemalan girl dying in Border Control custody after trying to get into the U.S. illegally by crossing the border with Mexico. That girl, Carillo pointed out, was the same age as she was when she came into the U.S.
Saturday’s event had a few different goals. One was to stand in solidarity with those looking to safely cross the border. Another was to inspire people to write letters to their representatives in Congress. Catherine Hatch, one of the organizers of the rally, said via email Saturday afternoon that Sen. Lisa Murkowski was the most popular person for letter-writers because she’s proven that she listens to the feedback of her constituents. There were letter-writing gatherings at Sacred Grounds Café and at Devil’s Club Brewing Company on Saturday.
Hatch said the event was a success in terms of fundraising and in simply creating a supportive and caring atmosphere.
“All the speakers had such powerful messages but ultimately positive: Juneauites show up for each other,” Hatch said, “and that was true today. I want to live in America where that compassion and kindness is extended to everyone, especially at the border.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.