On Sunday five families separated by the U.S.-Mexico border gathered on both sides of the fence dividing San Diego from Tijuana in hopes of briefly embracing their loved ones. The initiative, called “Opening the Door of Hope,” was a joint effort by the U.S. Border Patrol and pro-immigration NGO Border Angels to momentarily open the gates at Friendship Park, which divides the two nations.
The symbolic event, an act to commemorate Children’s Day, allowed five chosen families to reunite for a brief and tearful 3-minute hug. Prior to the event, the families underwent a selection process in which they were screened by both border patrol and the NGO. The emotional images are a painful reminder of what a broken immigration system looks like, and the human toll it takes on families divided.
This is the third such border opening in the past four years. The first one happened in 2013, when Border Angels director Enrique Morones convinced border patrol to open the Tijuana-San Diego border for a couple of minutes.
“We told them it would be something powerful and that it would make them look good,” Morones told Fusion.
But border patrol got nervous when a little girl ran towards her dad and jumped in his arms without giving prior warning. Morones says that caused the agency to cancel the event the following year, but it returned last year when four families were given a brief moment to hug.
The Border Angels founder acknowledges that opening the border for such a brief moment can be perceived by some as a cruel joke. But he says the open border event is not the time nor the place to be making accusations.
“I agree they should get more time, and my dream is that eventually there is no fence,” he said. “But I don’t use this event to give speeches, it’s a very special moment to show that love has no borders.”