Trump Administration Blamed for Cancellation of Mother's Day Event Reuniting Families at the Border

Immigration advocates have accused the Trump administration of forcing them to cancel an event that would have seen dozens of families reunited at the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso for Mother's Day.

The Border Network for Human Rights (BHNR), which had organized the Hugs Not Walls event, said it was "sad and disappointed" to announce it had to call off the annual gathering, which had been expected to take place on Saturday.

In Mexico, Mother's Day falls on Friday, while in the U.S. people celebrate on Sunday. Organizers felt that Saturday would be the perfect day to bring 150 separated immigrant families together at Sunland Park-Anpara in the El Paso area to mark the holiday.

But instead, Border Network for Human Rights Director Fernando Garcia said organizers have now been forced to cancel the event. He blamed "border agencies and institutions" for having "created every obstacle possible" and having "invented every necessary pretext to prevent this highly important, and historic, family gathering at the border."

"This event, which would have seen 150 separated immigrant families come together at Sunland Park-Anapra, is the latest casualty to the Trump administration's sustained assault against communities and migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border," Garcia said in a statement published his organization's website.

"This is an unfortunate end to an event that called attention to the ways that America's immigration policy fails so many of its families," he said.

Now, he said "families that have been planning for weeks to celebrate Mother's Day by being able to see their long-estranged loved ones are left in the lurch—their basic humanitarian needs to be with their families unmet."

In an interview with The El Paso Times, Garcia expanded on why the event was canceled, listing several reasons he believed were part of a coordinated effort to prevent the event because of the "rhetoric of this administration."

Among those reasons, Garcia said, was that organizers of the Hugs Not Walls event were asked by the Sunland Park Police Department whether they had permission to cross a set of railroad tracks near where the event was to be held.

The BNHR director said Union Pacific then got involved and denied the group access to crossing the tracks, where he said the group has traditionally held border gatherings and vigils.

"Then Union Pacific got involved and denied access in crossing the tracks to the region where we had traditionally had border masses, gatherings and vigils."

"This is the first time that Union Pacific said the land belonged to them and denied access to families," he told the newspaper.

In a statement to the Times, Tim McMahan, a spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad, said that "for safety reasons, we cannot allow people to cross our tracks except at existing public road crossings. Also for safety and security reasons, we do not allow gatherings by non-employees on Union Pacific property."

Garcia told the newspaper he also tried to coordinate with U.S. Border Patrol and requested to hold the event at another site in downtown El Paso. However, he said Border Patrol had concerns about security and migrants crossing and denied permission for the event.

"They know we have our security protocols well-established; we told them there wouldn't be a problem to do it at that site," he said.

Border Patrol spokesperson Roger Maier countered Garcia's claims, however, telling Newsweek in a statement that the Border Patrol "had no role in the cancellation of the event."

"The U.S. Border Patrol El Paso sector has a longstanding relationship with many area non-governmental agencies and strives to meet common ground on issues of mutual interest whenever possible," he said. "In fact, we have worked closely with the group coordinating the previous six events," he said.

Instead of the planned reunions at the border, Garcia said in his statement that BNHR would be holding an alternative event "to decry the inhumanity of the Trump administration and demand an America that truly values hugs, not walls."

The group will be gathering at 8:30 a.m. in a local park, Chihuahuita Park, with plans to march through the downtown area.

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A girl from Anapra, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, touches hands with a person on the United States through the border fence, during a prayer with priests and bishops from both countries to ask for the migrants and people of the area, on February 26, 2019.A girl from Anapra, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, touches hands with a person on the United States through the border fence, during a prayer with priests and bishops from both countries to ask for the migrants and people of the area, on February 26, 2019. Organizers of an event seeking to reunite families at the border for Mother's Day say they have been forced to cancel their plans. HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty
Trump Administration Blamed for Cancellation of Mother's Day Event Reuniting Families at the Border | U.S.