SAN DIEGO, FRIENDSHIP PARK- Riccardo Avilas and his friend are on a journey through the border state park between San Diego and Tijuana, to visit his daughter. He’s traveled from Washington, hoping to hug her. But won’t t be allowed to.
“It’s a horrible feeling in your throat. And I kept asking how to control it because it’s very hard,” he said.
Avilas’ has had to settle for the touch of their fingertips through a double meshed fence.
“I was thinking, being so close to my daughter but having this meshed wall separate us”
At the age of 15, he chose to leave her behind as he crossed the states to give her a better life on the northern side of the border.
Children continue to be left abandoned, while parents cross the border illegally. Other take the risk and cross the U.S. with their child, putting them in danger.
“The majority of Central Americans do it to give their children a better life,” Navarro said.
Before the Public outcry and backlash against the Trump administration’s family separation policy, deportations were still on the rise. In the first eight months following President Trump’s inauguration, arrests and deportations of people residing illegally in the United States increased by about 40 percent, to about 110,000 individuals, compared to 2016
Friendship Park, has opened the doors for millions of these families who have been separated, but not everyone has the opportunity to visit.
Take a look and see why friendship park is so important
“I have been in the Foster System for over 5 or 6 years now,” Gema Navarro, who is a foster kid said.
At the age of six she was forced to become the adult and show strength for her youngest brother, after her mother was deported back to Michoacán, Mexico.
A deportation that caused her relationship between her mother to fall apart. Now the only contact she makes with her is through rare Facebook messages.
“She had been deported 2 twice before and I just didn’t understand why she didn’t try again. I just--didn't understand.”
Now at 15 years-old she understands how difficult it is for her mother to cross the border illegally. Especially now as the president has been prosecuting as many border-crossing offenses as possible and announced the “zero-tolerance policy,”
Ryan Gonsalves, a border patrol agent who paroles Friendship Park, believes it’s their duty and job to protect the country.
“I somebody commits a crime in the U.S. and you’re with someone who is your child or someone who is underage, unfortunately you do not get to bring that person with you through your incarceration process. If that person is a juvenile, they will be separated from that person who are arrested from a law enforcement. So these are the decisions that are made by the parents, the accompanied adults of those juveniles. It’s not a decision we are making. It’s our job,” he said.
Navarro’s parents were separated from her and deported from the states due to multiple convictions that she did not want to state, but even so, she still feels the emptiness without the presence of her parents and wishes there was a way to see them.
“The immigration system is bad right now, especially right now,” Avilas said.
While Navarro hopes for a reunification between her parents she feels, “frustrated because sometimes I want to visit my family in Mexico, but then I realized I have it better than a lot of kids,” she said.
Young adults like Navarro suffer with the absence of their parents, But in her case, she is thankful and feels “Awesome and lucky to be in this family.”