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Families to hold binational reunion on banks of Rio Grande

'Hugs Not Walls' event scheduled ahead of expected arrival of massive crowds anticipating end of Title 42 expulsions

Photo by Shelby Kapp/KTSM 9 News.

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso and Juarez area families separated by immigration status again will have a chance to meet and hug along the Rio Grande, a local nonprofit says.

The 10th “Hugs Not Walls” binational reunion is scheduled for the morning of May 6 at a yet-to-be-disclosed location south of the border wall in El Paso. This year’s event has a Mother’s Day theme, said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network of Human Rights.

“We are organizing this event so that moms and dads separated from their children can see each other. We have been working with Border Patrol and the International Boundary and Water Commission in the U.S. and institutions in Mexico to have a safe, orderly family reunion,” he said.

BNHR since 2016 has arranged for immigrant families in the U.S. to walk down to the Rio Grande and briefly talk and touch family members who were either deported or lack the paperwork to come over from Mexico. Some of the families have not talked face-to-face with their relatives for 20 years or more.

The last “Hugs Not Walls” event took place in October. Border Patrol agents closely monitor the event and in the past, U.S. residents have been given colored vests to tell them apart from those who walk over from Mexico. Previous reunions were held on the dry river bed or on a temporary stage or on the banks of the river. This year’s arrangement has not been disclosed.

The event will take place five days prior to the expected termination of Title 42 public health migrant expulsions. Border experts and local officials say that is likely to draw an unprecedented number of people to the U.S. border. Already, border agents are encountering an average of 1,300-plus migrants a day in the El Paso Sector.

“Hugs Not Walls” organizers say they are aware of possible challenges but expect an orderly event that is days ahead of the expected crowds.

Garcia said the event is as much a humanitarian gesture as a protest against immigration policies that lead to family separation. “We try to bring light to this dramatic situation in which children grow up here while their parents are not able to come over from Juarez. This is a consequence of an often-irrational immigration system,” he said.

Registration for the event is ongoing. Families can sign up through BNHR’s web page.


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