On Nov. 20, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and grandparents living on opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border were allowed to hug each other for the first time in years, or — in some cases — decades.
The event was sponsored by Border Angels, a San Diego-based nonprofit that supports immigration reform and provides services to immigrant families living on the U.S. side of the border.
Six families were permitted to visit with each other for a few minutes each, according to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Border guards were present to ensure participants didn't stray too far to one side or the other.
The reunions were highly emotional, particularly given the uncertain future of the event — which has happened annually since 2013 — in the wake of the anti-immigrant rhetoric in the U.S. election.
1. Luis Hernandez and his father, Eduardo, embrace as a border guard looks on.
2. Matha Morales and Aileen Gonzalez — grandmother and granddaughter — share a brief hug through the open door.
3. Aileen's father, Adrian Gonzalez Morales, leads her away after her short visit with her grandmother.
4. Border guards monitor one of six emotional family reunions.
5. Laura Avila peers through the fence while having a conversation with her relatives in Mexico.
6. Avila and daughter Laura Vera Martinez wipe away tears as they leave a meeting with their relatives to return to the U.S. side.
7. A man surveys the scene from the Mexican side of the border.
8. 1-year-old Romina Camacho points through the fence from her father's arms.
9. Children play and wait as some glance through to the other side of the fence.
10. A man gazes through the fence to the U.S. side as a crowd gathers.
11. As families tearfully reunite at the open door, a small physical connection is made elsewhere.
For the thousands of undocumented Americans with family across the southern border — for whom going back to Mexico would mean being unable to return home to the U.S. — three minutes is hardly enough to express years' worth of longing, pain, and love. Still, many remain hopeful that they'll get the chance to connect again in person in the coming years, despite the anti-immigration hard line adopted by the incoming administration.
Luisa Hernandez of Los Angeles, who came to embrace her mother for the first time in 12 years, told the Union-Tribune that she was able to deliver a simple message to her mom during their brief meeting:
"I told her I loved her. That’s it."