CYPRESS, Calif. – Everyone has a story and Christian Flores is getting a glimpse into an undocumented migrant’s last chapter. His name was Edin Mazariegos Herrera and he was 32 years old.
“I will definitely not forget this,” said Flores, a student at Cypress College who is studying business administration.
- Immigrants Forced to Choose Health Care or Green Cards
- Asylum Seekers Dropped Off at Bus Depot in San Bernardino
Flores is in an art class at the college that is volunteering their time to help put together an art pop-up installation called “Hostile Terrain ’94.”
Students like Flores were given lists of undocumented migrants’ names, their ages, how they died and where their body was found. With that information, they fill out toe tags. Flores says he couldn’t help but think about a childhood friend who crossed the border when he was a kid.
“Just to know the amount of things he could have gone through to make it here is just crazy,” said Flores.
There will be more than 3,000 toe tags that will get pinned onto a giant map of Arizona. The tags are color-coded. The manila-colored tags represent the migrants who were identified and the orange tags represent the ones who were not.
“All the stories are different. Everyone died more gruesome than the other. It’s heartbreaking,” said Flores.
Cypress College is the third location in the country to host anthropology professor Jason De León’s project, which was named after an immigration policy that came out in 1994 during the Clinton Administration. The policy increased border security at major crossings which lead migrants to think that crossing through a desert with the risk of dying would be their only option for a better life.
“My idea is not to change people’s minds. It’s just to give them more information about this topic so they can make an informed decision and how to feel about it,” said De León.
The professor says the idea behind this project happened a long time ago when he was an archaeologist doing research on Ancient Aztecs in Mexico.
“I got to hear a lot of people’s immigration experience and I increasingly got more interested in those stories and things that were coming out of the ground,” said De León.
He says that Cypress in Orange County was chosen because there are many residents who personally know undocumented immigrants and would feel connected to what is happening along the border.
“It’s very special to be doing this in Orange County. It’s very close to home, both for me personally, but I think close to home to a lot the students and community members who come out here to volunteer their time,” said De León.
This project can be seen at Cypress College’s theater lobby through November 1. Professor De Leon’s goal is to raise awareness about the immigration policy that still remains in effect today, so people like Flores can get a glimpse into each person’s story as they tried to cross into America.