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Crossing the US-Mexico border: Separated families get a three-minute hug

Published 6th November 2018
Crossing the US-Mexico border: Separated families get a three-minute hug
Written by Ana Rosado, CNN
Since 2016, the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) have been bringing together families separated by the US-Mexico border, in an event called Hugs Not Walls. Twice a year, hundreds of families have the chance to see long-lost relatives for an unimaginably short, but precious, period of time: three minutes.
Jordyn Rozensky and Justin Hamel
"It's three minutes to see someone that you haven't seen in a long time. Three minutes to hug, three minutes to cry, and then, at the end of those three minutes, an air horn is blown. And you move back on and the next few people come through," explained photographer Jordyn Rozensky.
Last month, Rozensky and her partner Justin Hamel traveled to the border wall that divides Sunland Park from Ciudade Juárez to photograph the most recent Hugs Not Walls event. The much-anticipated gathering usually happens on the dry Rio Grande riverbed, in downtown El Paso, but this time, BNHR had to move the event because of construction to replace the chain-link fence with tall bollard barrier.
"The new location was even more dramatic, as it began with Border Patrol unlocking a gate in the middle of this massive fence and standing by with rifles throughout the entire Hugs Not Walls event," Rozensky said.
Jordyn Rozensky and Justin Hamel
More than 200 immigrant families traveled from both sides of the border to reunite with loved ones. Families on the American side of the border were given blue t-shirts, while those on the Mexican side wore white.
Jordyn Rozensky and Justin Hamel
"We knew that we would be seeing these incredible stories -- these mothers who hadn't seen their own mothers face-to-face in so many years, kids who are meeting their aunts or their uncles or their grandparents for the first time. We knew it would be something that changed the way we saw things, but it definitely was incredibly emotional," Rozensky said.
While Hugs Not Walls' primary purpose is to facilitate connections among families, coverage of the event attention has helped expose how immigration laws affect real people.
"It's so important that we continue to think about sensible immigration policies and reform that bring people together and don't hurt families," said Rozensky.