It has been more than a year since the International Friendship Park remains closed on the U.S. side, a situation that has led to the discontent of the park's founders and the sadness of those who used it to see their families divided by the border.
"Embracing or touching someone in your family that you haven't been able to hug, who you don't know when you're going to be able to hug and especially in pandemic time, the situation becomes more difficult and more critical," said Yolanda Varona, who's been deported since 2010. She feels sorry for those people who cannot see their loved ones through that fence as she was allowed to hug her granddaughter.
"What represented the park to me was hope, it was as if I had been injected with tremendous energy," Yolanda Varona recalled.
This park since its opening in August 1971, has witnessed hugs, tears, demonstrations, weddings and even poetry on its behalf. But today, it looks empty unlike the state park in San Ysidro, where you can see families transiting and enjoying the view on the beach.
"What is very clear is that this place is not a priority for them right now and it is always the struggle because we feel that it must be a priority and that it must be part of security," said Daniel Watman, founder of The Friends of Friendship Park.
And they claim to this day to receive calls from families who come from afar in the United States to see their relatives from the wall and encounter a closed park.
"A tragedy because they come here, we have pictures of people coming here and there they are greeting their relatives and they have to talk on the phone, which they may have done from home," Watman added.
Although this Friday, volunteers are trying to bring Tijuana’s part of the binational park to life, on the U.S. side it looks neglected.
"It's something for the community and on the other side it's all dead, the plants are dead and they're not taking advantage of it as it should be," said Jorge Aguilar, a volunteer and citizen in El Monte, California, he and a group of people go at least three times a week to maintain the park on the Tijuana side.
The U.S. Border Patrol sent Telemundo 20 the following statement:
"We continually monitor the increase in immigration and the number of agents we have available. Unfortunately, at the moment we won't be able to open Friendship Park until we have enough staff available to ensure that when we open it, the whole audience is safe."
The park is closed until further notice on the U.S. side. Before the pandemic, it operated on Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In the past, CBP would conduct an event called "Opening the Door for Hope," which allowed some families to reunite for three minutes when they opened the gate separating the U.S. Mexico Border. The program was shut down in 2018.
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