There were hugs across the Mexico-U.S. border again on Saturday when 300 families showed up for three minutes of embraces.
The joint effort by human rights advocacy groups and government authorities from both sides of the border made it possible for family members to see and hug each other in the second edition of the “Hugs Not Walls” event.
Members of families split by immigration policies arrived early Saturday morning at the border cities of El Paso on the American side and Ciudad Juárez on the Mexican side, where they waited on the shores of the mostly dry Río Bravo, as it is known in Mexico, or Rio Grande, as it is known on the other side of the border.
Starting at 9:00am and for three minutes, groups of 20 people, 10 from each side, got the chance to meet each other under the vigilant eyes of the U.S. Border Patrol and Mexico’s Federal Police, agencies that had granted permission to hold the event. Those coming from the United States were identified by blue shirts, while Mexicans wore white.
Many of the families had been separated for years, remaining in vicarious contact through electronic means, explained the executive director of the U.S.-based Border Network for Human Rights, one of the organizers of the event.
“This is an unprecedented moment,” said Fernando García. “The origin of it is the United States’ policy, which keeps families separated . . . with an aggressive policy against migrants.”
But, he added, the Hugs Not Walls event was “more than political.”
“This is an act of love, there’s hugs, smiles and happiness but still, it is also an act of protest. We need to raise awareness of the crisis of deported families.”
United States Congressman Beto O’Rourke, also in attendance, said that it was “a very nice day. I am proud of the Border Network and the Border Patrol and of this community, the largest binational community in the world.”
“We acknowledge that migrants are part of the success we’ve got, and through acts like this we can set an example for other borders,” he remarked.
One of the family members who participated was Karina Román, 19, who has been living in El Paso for the last 10 years.
“I hadn’t seen my mom in 10 years and it’s the most beautiful thing that could have happened. I am very emotional, and I liked that we could see and hug each other, even for a short time.”
Besides her mother, Karina was able to see her grandfather and uncle again, and meet her younger brother for the first time.
The first hugs event was held in August, organized by the Border Network for Human Rights and its Mexican counterpart, the Hope Border Institute.