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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Hugs, Not Walls: Migrant families briefly reunite on US-Mexico border

Amid the river that separates Mexico and the United States, around 150 migrant families symbolically brought down the fortified binational border on Saturday to embrace each other for six minutes during the annual “Hugs Not Walls” event.

Mexican migrants who have been living in the United States for over 20 years were finally able to reunite and, in some cases, meet their parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

For over four hours, border agents from the El Paso sector of the United States Border Patrol, located in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez, withdrew and watched from afar as the event organized by the US non-profit organization Border Network for Human Rights took place.

The organization set up a wooden platform right in the middle of the narrow flow of the Rio Grande, where participants walked until they met in warm and emotional hugs.

One of them was Uriel Zaragoza, whose father Eduardo went to work in the United States when Uriel was just eight months old. Today, at 22 years old, he was finally able to hug him.

“I am very happy because I really wanted to meet him, at least once in my life. It was difficult because he was very sick and I thought I was not going to see him,” said Zaragoza.

“You are not alone” read the blue shirts worn by the families on the Mexican side, such as Uriel and his sister, while his father and the rest of the migrants living in the United States wore yellow.

The meeting, which is celebrating its tenth year, comes just days before the repeal, next Thursday, of Title 42, a US rule that allows for the automatic expulsion of migrants without entry permits who arrive at the border, implemented by the government of former President Donald Trump (2017-2021) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahead of that date, authorities from both countries have warned of an increase in the flow of migrants to the border, attracted by the false promise from people smugglers that once the measure expires, they can cross into the United States without being returned.

The strengthening of security on the US side, where soldiers have placed barbed wire and surveillance vehicles, forced the event’s organizers to move the location at the last moment, according to Fernando García, director of the Border Network, who lamented the institutional aggression against migrants.

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