San Diego Family Regularly Crosses Border In San Ysidro To See Deported Husband, Father
This story is part of the America's Wall project.
At the northwestern edge of Mexico in Playas de Tijuana, Bridget and Eduardo Bohorquez held hands on the beach, watching the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash against the steel columns of a very long fence.
“So there it is, baby,” said Bridget.
Two birds perched on the U.S.-Mexico border wall took flight, heading south, one after the other. Bridget started crying.
“I don’t want to look at it too much,” she said, sniffling. Eduardo pulled his wife closer to him and said, “Don’t worry.”
The Bohorquezes live on opposite sides of the border. Bridget, a 38-year-old U.S. citizen, resides in San Diego County with their three children. Eduardo, a 48-year-old Mexican, calls Tijuana his home.
The couple met at a church youth camp in Chicago when Bridget was 19. Not long after getting married, Eduardo applied for citizenship. But it was at this time he learned he had to leave the U.S. under a 1991 deportation order. In 2002, an immigration judge denied a motion to reopen his case. Forced to leave Chicago, in 2004, Eduardo headed to Mexico City, where he had Apostolic Christian connections and could preach.
After a 10 year ban for entering the U.S. illegally, Eduardo thought he could try again to re-enter, this time, legally. But a 1993 police report described Eduardo as a “self-admitted Latin King,” which is a gang in Chicago. The family denies this allegation. But the U.S. State Department has used this as grounds to permanently ban Eduardo from the country.
Bridget considered moving to the Mexican capital with her husband, whom she believed had turned his life around since becoming a pastor. But their oldest son has autism and is not fluent in Spanish, she said. He was receiving special education and speech therapy. She wanted him to keep going to school in the U.S.
“So I said, let's live on the border,” she said.
In 2009, Bridget relocated to San Diego. Eduardo moved to Tijuana. Bridget visits her husband on weekends with their three children: Aaron, 16; Hannah, five; and Benjamin, two. The drive across the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the busiest border crossing in the Western Hemisphere, takes them at least an hour northbound, sometimes as long as four or five. The lines to enter Mexico have also gotten longer due to increased southbound inspections.
“There’s no wall big enough to stop love.”
But the family is used to the wait times. What Bridget has a hard time accepting, is Tijuana’s rising violence. Homicides reached a record level last year. Just a few blocks from her husband’s home in Tijuana, a woman was shot in her car, Bridget said.
“They executed a woman in her car. Killed her. I think it was last week they robbed the Coppel, the store in the plaza,” she said, tearing up as she recalled the incidents. She wiped the tears from her face. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to get emotional... We have to trust in God to keep us safe.”
On a park overlooking the beach in Tijuana, Bridget called out to her daughter Hannah nervously: “Don’t go running around, mami! It’s fun and it’s nice, but we have to be safe.”
The family approached a set of monkey bars by the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Bridget cradled the baby while Eduardo helped a giggling Hannah do pull-ups. Then it was Aaron’s turn.
“It’s not an easy situation for the kids, they don't understand it. Hannah hasn't asked me, ‘Why can't Papi come with us (to the United States)?’ She just accepts it for now because it’s normal for her. But it shouldn't be normal,” Bridget said.
The family had driven to the beach after church on a Saturday, Bridget in a flowing green blouse with her black hair pulled back in a neat black braid, Eduardo in a checkered blue button-up shirt.
They approached the U.S.-Mexico border wall, brightly colored on the south side with a community mural led by the artist Enrique Chiu, featuring images of hearts, birds, balloons and uplifting messages such as “Love trumps hate.” Bridget took photos with her cell phone.
“I understand what they’re doing with the mural, and I think it’s nice, it makes it more friendly, but it’s still the harsh reality of, that’s a divide,” Bridget said. “When I see the wall, I feel like it's that one dividing line that keeps us from being a complete family, from being normal. In the sense that my kids are deprived of their dad. And I'm deprived of him as a husband.”
When questioned regarding the role of her husband’s actions as a young man in their separation, Bridget said:
“He got arrested … and it is his fault, but at the same time, he’s been trying to make amends for it for many years and he’s still being punished for it,” she said. “I mean, where does it stop? He’s paid quite dearly now, and it’s at a point where he’s not being recognized for his efforts.”
On Sundays, when Bridget returns to the U.S. with her children, her husband drives for the first part of the long wait at the ort of entry, so she can crawl into the back and calm the baby if he starts crying. When they come within a few cars of the customs booths, Eduardo steps out of the car and kisses everyone goodbye. Bridget replaces him place in the driver’s seat.
On a recent Sunday, Hannah sobbed and screamed as her father kissed her goodbye. “Papi!” she cried. He closed the door. She kept crying as her mother pulled the van away from her father. Eduardo took a taxi back to his Tijuana house. “Papi!” Hannah cried again.
“I have to try to make the marriage work because I'm committed to it and I love him,” Bridget said. “There’s no wall big enough to stop love.”