Citizens from both Mexico and the United States gathered at the Mexican border on Jan. 28 to embrace their loved ones for four minutes.
Since Aug. of last year, the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) has held three events where families from both sides of the border had the chance to meet and greet each other, with the third and the most recent being held on Jan 28.
BNHR is an organization that handles immigration reform and human rights advocacy, and the organization has initiated these events, what are called “Hugs Not Walls,” for documented and undocumented Mexican migrant workers to reunite in person with their families who have lost physical contact with their loved ones.
“Hugs not Walls symbolizes an act of love since one of its purposes is to reunite families that have not seen each other in decades, but also represents an act of protest since the main idea is to denounce the family separations and deportations due to the harsh immigration policies,” said Gabriela Castaneda, Communication Director of BNHR.
According to Castaneda, at the third “Hugs Not Walls” event, 370 families showed up, and they were able to embrace with their families for four minutes. Instead at the second event, which was held on Oct. 29 of last year, were able to embrace for three minutes. Also, at the second event, Telersur described that more than 300 families met: “Starting at 9 a.m., groups of 20 people, 10 from each side, embraced family, members that some hadn’t seen for years, or even decades.” And the three events were not that different from each other, as Castaneda describes.
“The only difference between this one and the last is that on the last one, people were very afraid because the event was being held during the Trump administration,” said Castaneda.
Although the third event was just days after Trump signed the executive order requesting for the construction of the border wall, the “Hugs Not Walls” event still took place. Under sanction and watchful eyes of the U.S. Border Patrol and Mexico’s Federal Police and with the United States citizens wearing blue t-shirts and Mexicans wearing white, family members from each side of the border were allowed to embrace one another at the middle of the mucky Rio Grande, which in between the US-Mexican border.
This undoubtedly was quite emotional, but was an incredible act of love. On Jan. 25, Gabriela Castaneda described that the scene was even more emotional.
“We had people that had not seen their loved ones in decades, some had not seen their family members in 20 years. Mothers separated from daughter, sons from fathers, wives from husbands. Some of the families let us know that their loved one had died one or two weeks prior to the event, that was heartbreaking.”
On campus many student are unaware of the “Hugs not Walls” campaign, but many understand the hardship of being away from family, and others are concerned about the impact of President Trump’s immigration laws. Daniela Alonso, a junior majoring in psychology, stated that she was wary about the possible impacts of President Trump on such initiatives.
“Though I know nobody in Mexico, I am Cuban, and I have been separated from my extended family for seventeen years. I have yet to meet many aunts and uncles, and as such, I know it must be hard for those who cannot cross the Mexican border to look for their friends and family. I have great feelings of sympathy for such people,” said Alonso. “I am happy that there are passive protests going on such as #HugsNotWalls. I don’t know how successful this will be in improving migration laws, but I definitely know it’s a step in the right direction.”