At one border park, separated immigrant families hug across a steel divide

5/2/16 The Washington Post 

Mexican-American_border_at_NogalesSAN DIEGO — Gabriela Esparza has a standing date on most Saturdays to talk to her mother, on a schedule that never changes. She drives down Interstate 5 and turns off into a sprawling wildlife habitat bounded by the beach and Pacific Ocean and an 18-foot galvanized metal fence that stretches as far as she can see.

She makes her way toward a small yard surrounded by steel mesh and waits until 10 a.m., when a U.S. Border Patrol agent opens a heavy gate. Her mother is on the other side, in Tijuana, Mexico, waiting to see her daughter through the checkered grate, perhaps to touch her fingertips. They stay as long as they can, until another family needs a turn or the agent in charge warns, “five more minutes,” and the gate is locked shut at 2 p.m.

This pen is Friendship Park, the only federally established binational meeting place along the 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico. For seven years, this meeting through the mesh was as close as Esparza, 23, could get to her mother and sister.

This weekend was different. Esparza and her 2-year-old son, Leonel, stood in line Saturday with others chosen to participate in a celebration of Children’s Day in Mexico. For only the third time, the emergency door on this portion of the border fence would open, and five families would have three minutes each to embrace.

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