Meet the Border Angels, the Group Trying to Save Migrants’ Lives

I shadowed 40 volunteers while they stashed water along the border.

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Border Angels is an immigrant-advocacy group that organizes hikes into the southern California desert to distribute water along various routes for migrants crossing the US-Mexico border. Last month, along with about 40 volunteers, I tagged along to film one of these “water drops.” After five hours working under the desert sun, a handful of the Border Angels crew hung around a gas station parking lot. Snacks and sodas in hand, they traded laughs and stories from the trek as the border wall loomed in the valley over their shoulders. Some had a close personal connection to someone who had previously crossed: a father, a grandfather, a girlfriend. But some did not. 

I had wanted to put together a simple short film about their water drop operation. But like America’s immigration story, there wasn’t a single or simple story to craft out of this cast of characters. Instead I decided to feature the moments that stood out without forcing everything into one stand-alone narrative—and it seemed like Instagram, with its one-minute limit, provided just the right bite-size length for the scenes. But more than that, with “Instagram carousels” you can group smaller bits together to create experimental longer-form storytelling. The captions were then the final glue to hold it all together. The result is a documentary collage of my time spent with the Border Angels.

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