There’s a beach separating the US and Mexico where families meet on either side of towering border walls — see what it looks like

Mexicans stand on the beach while looking through the US-Mexico border fence into the US from Tijuana, Mexico on May 1, 2016.

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Mexicans stand on the beach while looking through the US-Mexico border fence into the US from Tijuana, Mexico on May 1, 2016.
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The Trump administration took another step this spring toward its campaign promise to keep undocumented immigrants out of the US.

In early May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Department of Homeland Security officials would begin a new “zero-tolerance” immigration policy: Everyone who attempts to cross the border – even those seeking asylum – are now being prosecuted.

The policy seems to be doing exactly what it was designed to do. Homeland Security figures reveal that between May 5 and June 9, border officials separated more than 2,300 children from 2,206 parents.

Following mounting pressure from both sides of the aisle, Trump signed an executive order that he said will stop family separation at the border. However, the fate of immigrant children already in custody remains unclear, and the order still faces legal obstacles.

Even before the Trump administration enacted this policy, migrant families often needed to separate, largely because crossing the US-Mexico border undocumented was always dangerous.

Steel fencing with razor wire, sensors, and surveillance cameras line most of the nearly 2,000-mile US-Mexico border today. Back in 1971, the US fundamentally changed a section of the barrier: The Nixon administration built Friendship Park, the only federally designated bi-national meeting place along the US southern border.

Until 1994, the park between San Diego and Tijuana did not include any fencing. Anyone could spend time there during the day, under the monitor of US Border Patrol. But border security tightened over time, and today families can barely touch fingertips through Friendship Park’s thick steel fence.

Friends of Friendship Park, a local community organization formed in 2006, is now attempting to work with the San Diego Border Patrol to allow unrestricted access to the park again.

Take a look below:


On August 18, 1971, first lady Pat Nixon inaugurated Friendship Park (located west of San Ysidro, California) and declared it a national monument.

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First lady Pat Nixon visits Friendship Park in 1971.
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National Archives and Records Administration

Source: NBC News


“May there never be a wall between these two great nations,” the first lady said. “Only friendship.”

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Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

Source: The Washington Post


Over 100 years prior, in 1848, the US built a pyramid-shaped statue on the San Diego beach to mark the end of the Mexican-American War. Today, there are 276 such monuments to the war along the border; the one in Friendship Park was the first.

Source: The Washington Post


Border security became more strict in the early 1990s.

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Family members reunite through bars and mesh of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Friendship Park on November 17, 2013 in San Diego, California.
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These security precautions made it more difficult for migrants to cross the border, and also increased the risk of heat stroke, dehydration, and hypothermia for those who tried. More than 6,000 migrants died trying to cross the border from 2000 to 2014, according to a report from the International Organization for Migration.


In 1994, as part of the Clinton administration’s Operation Gatekeeper, a fence was constructed on the border between San Diego and Tijuana, including in Friendship Park.

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Ana Gomez (L) and a family member in Mexico kiss through the U.S./Mexico border fence at Border State Park February 1, 2003 west of San Ysidro, California.
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In 2009, the US side of Friendship Park was shut down and a second fence running parallel to the first was completed.

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Daughters of Hector Gomez talk through the US/Mexico border fence to their cousins in Mexico, who they have only seen behind the steel fence at Border State Park February 1, 2003 west of San Ysidro, California.
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The part of the fence that stretches into the park (and the Pacific Ocean) includes barbed wire, surveillance cameras, and sensors that can detect unauthorized crossings.

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People enjoy a late afternoon near the U.S.-Mexico border fence which ends in the Pacific Ocean on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico.
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But after protests, Friendship Park re-opened in 2012.

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Maria Rodriguez Torres, 70, looks toward her departing grandchildren after seeing them for the first time at the US-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico.
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In 2007, a group of American and Mexican middle and high school students created a community garden where anyone on the Tijuana side can plant crops and flowers.

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Jardín Binacional/Facebook

Gardeners, architects, and community organizations volunteer to keep it running.

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Dan Watman (L), shows visitors the ‘Friendship Garden’ which extends through the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Friendship Park on November 17, 2013 in San Diego, California.
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“The garden started as a project … to bring people with the common interest of promoting native flora together to make friends across the border fence while collaborating to improve the region,” Friendship Garden’s Facebook page reads.


Today, people with US citizenship or visas can visit the San Diego side on Saturdays and Sundays. (The Tijuana side is open 24-7.)

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A Mexican boy hits a ‘Captain America’ pinata as part of a weekend of Mexican Children’s Day celebrations at the U.S.-Mexico border on May 1, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico.
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Many come to see relatives through the fence, a reverend and the coalition’s leader, John Fanestil, told Business Insider.

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A girl meets family members through the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico.
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“Every weekend dozens of families travel long distances to visit the park, and in almost every instance, they do so because they have no other recourse for seeing their loved ones,” he said.

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Carlos, who lived in Los Angeles 28 years undocumented before being deported to Mexico, kisses his wife through the meshed US-Mexico border on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. U.S.
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Community organizations host a variety of events there, including mass services, drum circles, and yoga classes.


In celebration of the Mexican holiday Children’s Day in 2016, five families were allowed to re-unite and hug at Friendship Park.

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American missionary Edward White, 23, embraces a fellow immigrant advocate at the US-Mexico border fence on May 1, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico.
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When the emergency door opened, they each had three minutes to embrace.

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Samantha Simental, 3, walks to meet family members from Mexico during an ‘Opening the Door of Hope’ event on April 30, 2016 in San Diego, California.
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The families underwent two background checks before their reunion, according to The Washington Post.


Friends of Friendship Park is now pressuring the San Diego Border Control to let anyone access the San Diego park under border officials’ watch.

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Immigrant advocacy groups pray at the U.S.-Mexico border fence on May 1, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico.
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In early 2017, the organization launched a petition to further that goal.

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It has since garnered over 1,600 signatures. Representatives of the group have also met with architects to design a new border park.

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People enjoy a late afternoon near the U.S.-Mexico border fence on September 25, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico.
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You can read the petition here.


But San Diego Border Patrol officials have cited concerns about safety, security, and the trafficking of contraband as reasons not to increase contact between residents of the two countries in the park.

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Immigrant advocacy members pray at the U.S.-Mexico border fence on May 1, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico.
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But the members of Friends of Friendship park disagree.

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Mexicans walk along the US-Mexico border fence on May 1, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico.
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“Collectively, our coalition members have spent thousands of hours at the park and are convinced that these concerns are unwarranted,” Fanestil said.


In February, the coalition met with Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott and other border patrol officials. Scott informed the group that he would reduce the number of visitors allowed inside the park from 25 to 10 due to “staffing challenges.”

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A Border Patrol officer watches from the entrance to Friendship Park, which has many restrictions, as visitors walk up to the border wall with Mexico on April 29, 2018 in San Diego, California.
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For the same reason, the public would no longer be able to access the park’s bi-national Garden, Scott told the coalition.


The group expressed “strong disappointment” in the decision.

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Friendship Park

“Our extensive experience at the park has taught us this unique environment is more secure, not less, when there are more people forging positive relationships across the border,” the coalition said in a statement.


Despite these challenges, Fanestil believes that Friendship Park will one day become truly bi-national. “This was its intended purpose,” he said.

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The coalition plans to unveil a proposal for a redesign of Friendship Park this fall.

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Juana Saravia Medina, 60, speaks to her daughter and grandchildren through the US-Mexico border fence on May 1, 2016 in Tijuana, Mexico. Medina said her daughter immigrated from Mexico to Tennessee 20 years ago and brought her two children back to the border fence in Tijuana to see their grandmother for the first time.
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