customs and border protection

Change in Plans for New Border Wall Marks Victory for Friendship Park Along US-Mexico Border

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Plans for an improved border fence that would have spelled the end of Friendship Park in Imperial Beach have been adjusted, allowing friends in the U.S. and Mexico to keep embracing in person.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed its change of plans Tuesday.

For decades, Friendship Park was a place where families reunited. NBC 7’s Dave Summers has the story.

“We will identify opportunities to provide the public with access once it is operationally safe to do so. … the replacement construction project will not be an impediment to potential opportunities for future access in this location,” a statement from the agency read in part.

In May, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans for a new primary border fence line made of 30-foot bollards. The new fence design didn’t include gates that allow public access to the secondary fence that divides the two countries, effectively eliminating face-to-face meetings at the park.

Supporters of Friendship Park say public pressure led to the change.

“I am against the fence entirely,” Aydin Abudawas said. “I don’t think we need a 30-foot wall blocking us from other citizens of Mexico and citizens of other South American countries.”

NBC 7's Dave Summers explains why the park means so many to families in San Diego and Tijuana.

Abudawas was among dozens who rallied at CBP headquarters Tuesday.

Supporters say their goal is to preserve the unique opportunity for families on both sides of the border to share their lives, despite the border between them -- An opportunity Friends of Friendship Park says can’t be found anywhere else along the 2,000 miles of border shared with Mexico. 

“They can see each other, they can touch each other, share meals together. It is beautiful,” Debra Ramos said.

Pedro Rios with Friends of Friendship Park said rallies like the one Tuesday night, along with letters and phone calls to border authorities, made the difference.

“The step that is probably most important to us is to ensure public access,” Rios said.

NBC 7 asked for more details about what access will look like but CBP did not provide further explanation.

Friendship Park was closed in 2020 due to, according to CBP, COVID, staffing issues and hazards presented by the deteriorating border wall.

Whether it reopens before or after the new wall is built is not known.

Demonstrators told NBC 7 that Friends of Friendship Park and CBP officials have a meeting scheduled for Wednesday at 5 p.m. to discuss the next steps.

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