As the U.S. government faces thousands of Central American children seeking asylum, it’s also facing a growing public relations disaster at Friendship Park at the western end of the border in Tijuana. Correspondent Mike Kirsch has more on how a place that once brought families together is now slowly drifting them apart.
The historic border park, dedicated by First Lady Pat Nixon in 1971, was once an open neutral zone along the Pacific Ocean where families from both sides of the border were free to hug and share food across a simple barbed wire border fence. First Lady Nixon said, “I hope there won’t be a fence here too much longer.”
Today, human rights observers say Friendship Park is run more like a prison facility and is anything but the friendly meeting place it was in the early 1970s. The thick iron fence that has been built makes faces barely visible. Seen from the air, Friendship Park is what the observers say is one of the most damning symbols of the U.S government’s failed immigration policy. And they say they feel like common criminals standing in front of their U.S. born children and other family members visiting the wall from the U.S. side.
Friendship Park fence separates families at the borderToday, human rights observers say Friendship Park is run more like a prison facility and is anything but the friendly meeting place it was in the early 1970s. The thick iron fence that has been built makes faces barely visible.
Mexican-American Enrique Morones is one of the park’s original founders and says those deported are treated like criminals in state capitals. With mesh set on top of the fence, it is close to impossible for families to even touch one another. “When you go to the wall it’s very difficult to see your loved one, you can’t even hold their hand,” he says. “You might be able to touch their fingertips.”
Many Mexican visitors on the U.S. side at Friendship Park say they are not able to go back to Mexico. They have to wait for a lengthy legalization process in the U.S.
Friendship Park: www.friendshippark.org
U.S. Customs and Border Protection – www.cbp.gov
Border Encuentro on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Border-encuentro/118955574821350