By Guadalupe Peñuelas
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, June19 (EFE).- Hundreds of separated families met briefly at the border between Mexico and the United States after decades of living apart thanks to the 8th annual “Hugs Not Walls” event.
The tearful reunion took place on the dry riverbed of the Rio Grande, a concrete culvert that marks the border between the US and Mexico.
It allowed hundreds of Mexican immigrants, who have irregular status and unable to return to their native country, to meet, see, touch, and hug their families on the international border.
Emotional scenes played out with hugs and tears as nearly 200 families met for the first time in decades at the event, hosted by the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) and Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance (RITA).
The event let the border fence open to allow the families the opportunity to see each other.
Rubí Moreno, 23, had not seen her sister in the last 21 years and could barely imagine how she looked.
“I did not know my sister. The moment I saw her was very beautiful. My heart swelled with joy,” Rubí told EFE.
She said the separated families should be allowed to visit each other for the sake of humanity.
On the US side, the event took place in Sunland Park, New Mexico.
BNHR director Fernando García denounced the US immigration policy that has destroyed several Latino families.
He said the “Hugs Not Walls” event was an act of protest against “inhumane policies and practices that deny families and individuals the dignity, respect, and safety they deserve.”
He said the precious minutes of families reuniting offered a glimpse of the human roots of compassion.
“As long as families continue to separate, we will continue to reuniting them,” he told EFE.
Rogelio Pinal, a rights activist in Ciudad Juárez, said borders become irrelevant and cease to exist during the brief event of reuniting separated families.
“It is like removing the borders between the two countries. It is a humanitarian event to unite those who have not seen each other for many years,” Pinal said.
Human Rights Watch Associate Director Clara Long said the nonprofit had documented the devastating impact on the rights to home and family due to the US immigration system for decades.
“Much of this harm flows from linking the immigration system to the criminal legal system, resulting in a disproportionate impact on people of color including Black, Latinx, and Southeast Asian communities,” Long said in a blog post.
“For decades, the United States immigration system has deported hundreds of thousands of individuals, permanently separating them from their loved ones and destabilizing communities.”
Like Rubí, José Moreno, 33, had come to see her see sister for the first time in 22 years.