Immigration policy protested by border families

Hundreds of residents and families separated by the border between the United States and Mexico gathered at a chain-link fence that separates the two nations on Monday to stage a bi-national protest against the immigration policy of the US.

Sisters laughed, kids exchanged sweets through the fence and mothers cried during the event, which was organized by activists for immigrant rights to demonstrate how families are divided by the border and US immigration policy. The event, which drew around 250 people on the American side and 50 on the Mexican side, was deliberately timed to coincide with the visit to Mexico by Pope Francis, who has been vocal on the need for US immigration reform.

The Vatican says the journey the pope is making through Mexico, from the southern state of Chiapas to the border with the US state of Texas in the north, is a symbolic tracing of the route used by immigrants attempting to reach the United States. Today the pope will be in nearby Ciudad Juarez, opposite of the city of El Paso in the north of the US, to celebrate an outdoor mass.

The protest on Monday was held in the small New Mexico city of Sunland Park, opposite the Juarez suburb of Anapra in the Chihuahua state of Mexico and close to where Mexico, New Mexico and Texas meet. The gravel lot is used annually for similar meet-ups between families on opposite sides of the border.