Memorial Statue to Welcome Immigrants at San Diego Border

October 10, 2018

By Ana Gomez Salcido

Mario A. Cortez | La Prensa San Diego

Border community leaders announced a $1 million fundraising campaign to construct a 40-foot sculpture of Mary in the likeness of the Statue of Liberty, to stand overlooking the U.S.-Mexico border in the San Diego region. The grassroots leaders invite people across the nation to help them build the monument known as Welcome the Stranger to send a larger-than-life message of hope to aspiring new Americans.

“All people deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion, regardless of their background or immigration status,” said sculpture artist Jim Bliesner. “With this sculpture we can remember those who have struggled and provide hope for those who will follow.”

The American immigrant community in San Ysidro, where the statue will stand, led the monument’s design to ensure it reflects their modern immigrant experiences. Dozens shared stories of migration in a series of art therapy sessions facilitated by community engagement muralist and certified art therapist Berenice Badillo.

Bliesner used the community’s direction to render the final design, for Welcome the Stranger. In likeness of the Statue of Liberty, Mary will hold a torch and will be illuminated each night as a beacon of hope in the darkness. Her steel robe will contain sharp angles to symbolize the strength and struggle of immigrant experiences. Blocks of bright color in the folds of her robe represent moments of rest and hope in the migrant journey.

Welcome the Stranger will stand on a hilltop at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, where it will be visible for miles overlooking the border. The site will serve as a special gathering place for the community, with seating and drought-tolerant landscaping surrounding the sculpture’s base. Each brick at the patio and stairs leading up to the monument will feature the name of an individual or organization that contributed to make “Welcome the Stranger” a reality.

The project has already received $1 million from the California Endowment and it depends on contributions from people across the country to raise $1 million more to build “Welcome the Stranger” by early 2019.

“We invite all Americans who believe in welcoming people with compassion to join us,” said Deacon of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the San Diego Organizing Project Jose Luis Medina. “By donating at www.welcomethestranger.us and sharing the project with your friends and family, you can build a historic symbol of welcome for immigrants and refugees in our communities.”

Depending on their donation level, supporters can receive crowdfunding rewards, from a “No one stands alone” T-shirt to an inscribed brick at the site.

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