San Diego

CBP Closes ‘Door of Hope' on Cross-Border Reunification Event

Border Patrol is closing the door on a program that allows loved ones living on opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border to reunite for three minutes by opening the barrier that separates them.

The head of Border Angels, an immigration advocacy group that works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to put on the annual event, announced the decision earlier this week. 

"Opening the Door of Hope" has been held for the last six years at Friendship Park, an area between two border fences at Border Field State Park near south San Diego. During the event, Border Patrol opens a gate that seperates pre-selected loved ones living in separate countries and allows them to embrace, kiss and speak face-to-face. Last year 12 families were selected.

Director of Border Angels Enrique Morones said he met with Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott earlier this week to discuss several events the agency and the group coordinate on, including Opening the Door of Hope.

Morones said that Scott will not allow Opening the Door of Hope this year, but the organizations have coordinated on several other events planned for 2018. 

The cross-border event came under scrutiny last month after it was discovered that one of men selected to participate in the cross border event — a U.S. citizen who used his three minutes to wed his international girfriend — had been charged with drug smuggling

Brian Houston married Evelia Reyes, a Mexican national, in November.

At the time, Houston declined to explain why he was unable to go to Tijuana, but said the couple's attorney was trying to obtain a green card for Reyes to join him in the U.S.

A month after the wedding, a federal complaint shows Houston was unable to cross into Mexico because he surrendered his passport in March when he was released on bail after he was caught smuggling more than 120-pounds of heroin, meth and cocaine across the border. He pleaded guilty to three felony charges of importing a controlled substance.

The incident angered Border Patrol, but it is not clear if it had any influence on the cancellation of Opening the Doors of Hope. 

CBP still allows families to see each other through a fortified fence at Friendship Park while remaining firmly in their countries. Morones said that events at Friendship Park like Immigration First Sundays, a day for immigrants to meet with a lawyer for consultations on various issues, and a Valentine's Celebration with music and flowers, will continue.

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