Families unable to cross the border embrace across the Rio Grande during Hugs Not Walls event

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Maria Aldaba drove 18 hours from Kansas to El Paso for a chance to be with her family for three minutes.

Aldaba participated in the Hugs Not Walls event on Saturday. The event allowed more than 100 pre-screened families a chance to speak to and embrace loved ones for three minutes. The border fence was opened to allow them the opportunity.

Albada traveled from Kansas to visit her family who live in Mexico.

“Eighteen hours of traveling is very, very little hours for these moments of three minutes to hug my mom and children. It’s worth it, a lot,” she said in Spanish.

A “#HUGS NOT WALLS” banner is displayed along the border wall as part of 8th annual event on the Rio Grande, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Saturday, June 19, 2021. The event allows migrants living in the U.S. to reunite with their relatives living on the other side of the border for a few minutes. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

Families could be seen holding on to one another as tears rolled down their cheeks as other families eagerly awaited their turn to cross. They waived through the border fence at their loved ones in excitement.

This was the eighth year that the event called “Hugs Not Walls” was held at the El Paso-Juarez border. The event is hosted by the Border Network for Human Rights and Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance.


“My dad hasn’t seen his mom for almost 15 years and my aunt. My mom hasn’t seen one of her brothers for 21 year,” said Brenda Soria, who traveled with her family from Arizona. “It’s really hard because they did this for us … and they haven’t seen their family, you know. Because of us, because they wanted us to be on this side and have a better future.”

One El Pasoan participating in the event said she found it difficult to express how she felt about getting to see her son for the first time in a decade.

“My son, it’s been,” said Norma Valenzuela in Spanish before pausing as tears filled her eyes.

“She can’t speak,” her daughter Adriana Valenzuela said as she held her.

“Ten years that I haven’t seen him,” Norma Valenzuela said. She was also excited and nervous to see her son, who lives in Mexico. Adriana explained why her mother cannot cross to Mexico.

“Because of the immigration rules and all the stuff, she lost her residence, so she cannot go to Juarez,” Maria said. “So it’s why she can’t see him.”

A young girl came with her grandmother to see her father, whom she hadn’t seen in a year.

“I’m feeling very happy and also very emotional but I should enjoy this opportunity,” said Valentina Museo as she stood next to her grandmother.

For the families, the hardest part was saying goodbye, but they say it was worth every precious minute.

“It doesn’t have a price, it’s worth it. All of this for three minutes to hug to my children,” said Teresa Alonso, who traveled from across the country to see her her loved ones.

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