Laura Avila of Los Angeles had an early 71st birthday present for her mother living in Mexico. Herself.
She gave it Saturday at the latest opening of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Friendship Circle & Binational Garden at Border Field State Park — a few hundred yards from the ocean.
“It was a gift for me and a gift for her that we were able to see each other after so many years,” Avila said at the event organized by Border Angels. “I just wanted to hold her and take her home.”
The daughter prayed that better angels would visit the president-elect — and allow such visits again. (This was the fourth such fence opening — the second this year.)
“It will take a while for (Donald Trump) to change things,” Avila said. “I do believe that there are good people, good hearts out there. And people are going to raise their voice and things will happen.
“When there’s bad things, there’s always positive things,” said Avila, who has three children but was able to bring only one to visit Maria Socorro Martinez Lopez. “God will help us all. I know that deep in my heart [Trump will] change his mind.”
Enrique Morones hopes Border Angels, the group he founded in 1986, will do its part to open hearts and minds.
“Some of the things that the president-elect has proposed aren’t as easy as he thinks,” Morones said, though he worried about the “extremist people” being chosen for power — such as would-be Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“But they still have to abide by the law,” Morones said. “There are other powers in the government that might not allow what he wants to do.”
In 2017, Border Angels hopes to see a four-state fence opening — including Texas, Arizona and New Mexico — on April 30, Children’s Day in Mexico. (Saturday’s event was a day before the United Nations’ Universal Children’s Day.)
(Even so, families can speak to each other through the highly patrolled border fence from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Friendship Circle.)
While media crews from as far away as Japan prodded for reactions to the upcoming Trump presidency, the only thing that mattered to the invited families were precious moments with separated loved ones.
They spent their time exchanging words of love, hugging and touching each other’s faces and hair.
“This is not a political event,” insisted Morones. “This is an event that says love has no borders. … I absolutely expect this to continue. Of course, I can’t guarantee it. But I do guarantee that we are not going to give up.”
Neither will Luis Eduardo Hernandez-Bautista — the first person in line Saturday to see a Mexican-based family member.
He said he was “terrified” at the prospect of Trump delivering on his deportation threats. “All that I can do is just hope for the best.”
He said his father, Eduardo Hernandez, recently moved to Tijuana. The son has seen his father only by peeking through tiny holes in the fence, but Saturday was able to his wrap his arms around him.
Luis’ girlfriend had submitted Luis’ name as an early birthday gift — it’s next week.
“I talk a lot about my dad, all the time,” the Los Angeles man said of his father, deported more than five years ago. “And she asked me: ‘If you could hug your dad again, would you?’ Of course. ‘Even if it is for only three minutes?’ Of course.”
Father and son talked about how much they missed each other.
“A lot of joy,” the son said after the visit. “I just wish that it was more than three minutes.”
Yvette Hernandez is a school-age child who said she was emotional to meet her grandparents for the first time in person after having seen only photos or visited via Skype.
“They said they loved me,” said Yvette, who learned only last week that she was going to see her maternal grandparents.
On Saturday, the grandparents asked: “Is there going to be another time when we can visit?”
An alternate for the visits, Avila said she was “nervous but very positive” about her chances of seeing her mother. She got it when one of the six designated families didn’t show up.
“It was beautiful,” Avila said. “Seeing her or not seeing her, she always gives me strength.”
Morones predicted Trump would not follow through on his vow to build a wall.
“First of all, it doesn’t make any sense,” Morones said. “There are more people heading south than north. At some parts, you can’t build a wall.”
He recalled personally being told by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy: “Show me a 15-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 16-foot ladder.”
“The wall doesn’t stop people,” Morones said. “It just forces people to cross in more dangerous areas. There’s the ocean, there’s tunnels, there’s ladders. So what we want to do is to prove that love is the answer, not hate.”
He noted the widespread fear among undocumented immigrants.
“They don’t know what’s going to happen with deferred action for childhood arrival, or DACA, so nobody knows the answer to that,” he said. “The only thing that we have to be very careful about is fraud. There are people who are taking advantage of people, saying: ‘I’ll fix it for you.’”
Nobody can fix it, he said, advising such U.S. residents to talk to trusted immigration attorneys or consulate officials.
Only with love can discrimination be conquered, he said, “so this is a very powerful act. We wish that we could do this every day, but we can’t.”