It’s Father’s Day and Antonio Hernandez and his sister Asucena Hernandez of Los Angeles have driven nearly 150 miles to the U.S. border with Mexico to visit their father, Antonio Hernandez. He had been deported nearly 10 years ago.
With smiles on their faces they approached the steel mesh fence separating the two countries at Friendship Park. Tucked between San Diego and Tijuana, just steps away from the ocean, the half-acre park is the only federally authorized “bi-national meeting place” along the southern border.
Fingertips touch. Hearts fill with joy. They are an inch from their father. There were laughs. There was conversation. Tears … .
On this day, the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy — which led to the separation of many immigrant families from their loved ones — is on the minds of many as they come here, even as talk of a border wall consumes the national conversation, and creates its own kind of divisions.
But also at this place, where about 50 people have gathered on one blustery June day, there’s peaceful interaction between people on both sides of the border.
People like U.S. Veteran Hector Barajas of South Los Angeles come here. On this day, he approaches the fence at Friendship Park from the U.S. side to visit his fellow veterans still in Tijuana.
Barajas was deported in 2004 after he spent time in prison for shooting at a vehicle. Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned him in 2017, noting his distinguished military service and advocacy work. And, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, he was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on Friday, April 13.
Before becoming a citizen, he founded a safehouse in Tijuana for other deported veterans called the Deported Veterans Support House, otherwise known as “The Bunker.”
“It’s a reminder of the phsyical barriers that keep up separated,” he said of his visits to the border and Friendship Park.
Photographer Drew Kelley spent time here on this Father’s Day, capturing moments we invite you to see here.
Friendship Park is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. under the supervision of U.S. Border Patrol agents. For information, go to www.friendshippark.org/visitus.
Somos una organización civil, creada bajo el formato 501(c)(4) y 501(c)(3) por un grupo de ciudadanos norteamericanos de origen mexicano, que buscan concientizar y educar sobre la importancia e influencia de los méxico-americanos para Estados Unidos, así como promover la participación directa a través del voto a favor de políticas que beneficien a nuestra comunidad.