SUNLAND PARK, NEW MEXICO — Emotions ran high as approximately 50 immigrant families gathered at a border fence in Sunland Park for a reunion with relatives on the Mexican side of the border Sunday, calling on Congress to “keep our dream alive” as a way to commemorate International Human Rights day.
During an event organized by the Border Network for Human Rights, border residents and immigrants stressed the need for Congress to pass legislation that grants legal status for young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers who are at risk of deportation.
Coordinating through walkie talkies, event organizers on both sides of the border wall lined up people behind yellow police tape, allowing each set of family roughly five minutes to walk up to the wall and hug relatives through steel beams at a designated location. People on the U.S. side of the border wall wore blue shirts while their counterparts on the Mexican side of the wall wore white shirts. All event participants were told ahead of time that they could not pass any items through the fence.
Through steel beams separated by a few inches, families embraced, emotions ranging from open weeping to busy chatter about daily lives. Many immigrants were there to see parents for the first time since their deportations, while other people met new babies. A priest also officiated a marriage that took place across the border wall.
In one interaction, an old Mexican man wearing a cowboy hat silently but strongly embraced his adult son on the U.S. side of the border for no less than three minutes. He then wiped his son’s tears through the fence while his son used his right hand to hold hands with another family member.
Nearby, two sets of women separately cried as they spoke with family members across the border wall, receiving hugs of assurance from relatives to help them calm down.
Further down another section of the border wall, a woman and her child alternated between weeping and laughing with a man on the Mexican side of the border.
Maribel Gomez, a 33-year-old immigrant from Utah, was also at the border with her two children to visit her family for the first time in 14 years.
The event came days after President Donald Trump remarked he would like to see “borders on top of borders” claiming the border wall was necessary to prevent national security and public safety threats. Trump has repeatedly called for more congressional funding to build a “big” and “beautiful” wall despite recent government data showing border crossings at the lowest level in 45 years. Immigrant families, on the other hand, do not understand the need for more fortification and have only known the wall as a barrier to see their families.
Ruth, a high school freshman from nearby Anthony, New Mexico, was at Sunland Park on Sunday to visit her father and step-family for the first time since last October. Since the U.S. government deported her father five years ago, Ruth has been living in the United States with her grandmother. She talks to her father on the phone every day, but said she couldn’t wait to tell her father in person about joining the high school basketball team and “not giving up on my dream of becoming someone in the United States,” she told ThinkProgress in an interview before the event began.
“My dad decided it would be…a better choice if I came to the United States,” Ruth said, sobbing halfway through the interview. She said she hopes that Trump will realize that people like her dad aren’t rapists and criminals, but that they are workers who “are trying to get a better future.”
“[The president is] only separating families and breaking homes,” Ruth said.
ThinkProgress Director of Video Victoria Fleischer contributed to reporting.