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50 Years Of Friendship Park

 August 18, 2021 at 10:32 AM PDT

Title: 50 Years Of Friendship Park Description: On August 18, 1971, First Lady Pat Nixon stood at the place at the southwestern most point of the U.S.-Mexico border and celebrated what was envisioned as "International Friendship Park.” That day, Nixon said, “I hope there won't be a fence too long here.” Flash forward 50 years, and the small barbed-wire fence that once demarcated the border has been replaced with two large steel fences, dozens of cameras, a watch tower and other security measures. In this special bonus episode produced as part of the park's 50th anniversary, we talk to some of the people in Tijuana and San Diego who are working hard to keep Nixon’s vision of a fence-free binational park alive. From KPBS and PRX, “Port of Entry” tells cross-border stories that connect us. Photos: Hey...I’m Alan Lilienthal and you’re listening to Port of Entry… A podcast from KPBS and PRX about our transborder lives here….where the U.S. and Mexico meet. Friendship Park Protest Clip 1 Saying Hello/setup ambi So...back in June...Port of Entry producer Kinsee Morlan met up with John Fanestil. Friendship Park Protest Clip 3 John Saying Hi to Kinsee Oh Kinsee...Nice to see you. I didn’t recognize you. The last time I saw you, you were out chasing me around out here. Kinsee: yes, now I’m back here to chase you around again. Longtime listeners might recognize John’s voice… He’s the pastor behind Border Church…the outdoor service that meets up at the actual U.S.-Mexico border fence...with members in both Tijuana and San Diego. BEAT So yeah...picture people on each side of the international border… Between the two sides are one 12-foot fence and a taller secondary fence… But they’re all listening to the same bilingual church service through a sound system set up on the Tijuana side. And the backdrop is playas….this beautiful beach at the southwesternmost point of the U.S.-Mexico border. Nat sound: Border Church Video We did an entire episode on the binational church a few years ago. You should go back and check it out sometime… Anyway… We’re bringing back John today because the pandemic has really disrupted Border Church. Just like it’s disrupted so many things in this strange new normal we’re all navigating…. BEAT So....when the pandemic hit...Friendship Park...the spot inside Border Field State Park where Border Church is held…. was closed down alongside everything else in our society. Friendship Park Protest Clip 4 John Explaining the Sitch …...Um, U S border patrol had given us every reason to believe that when the pandemic came to an end, uh, or was winding down that once again, people would be able to enter friendship park. The historic binational meeting place would be able to visit with loved ones through the border wall…... See….this little park… It isn’t a normal park where people go to have a picnic or something… This is the place along the U.S.-Mexico border where people separated by immigration status go to see each other in-person, albeit through a border fence…. It’s been an important meeting spot for binational families and friends for decades... And while sections of the park have been reopened… The part that’s still closed is really the most important…. It’s called Friendship Circle and it's the spot in-between the two big, steel border fences… In pre-pandemic times...Border Patrol agents would open up a gate and let people walk into what’s called “Friendship Circle.” In between those two fences, people on the U.S. side could see their friends and family in Mexico up-close. They can even reach their fingers through tiny holes in the fence to touch each other in what’s become known here as “pinkie kisses.” BEAT FADE Friendship Park Protest Clip 4 John Explaining the Sitch As you can see, the California state park and surrounding areas are open. And people are arriving. I've met several families who were here today, wishing to be able to visit with their loved ones in Mexico. Uh, but US border patrol is not open. The park federal property is still closed. BEAT TRANSITION John and lots of other folks who care about Border Church and the park...want Friendship Circle reopened...asap... And after many failed attempts at talks with the San Diego Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol to try to get them to do that... John and others eventually decided it was time for a good, old-fashioned protest. Friendship Park Protest Clip 9 John Talking to Crowd I think most of you, otherwise, I imagine you wouldn't be here, kind of get the larger purpose that we're fighting for. The message today is open friendship park. Friendship Park Protest Clip 4 John Explaining the Sitch So we're here to March in silence and to represent, um, uh, the desire of people on both sides of the border, uh, to be able to meet at, at, at friendship park. NAT SOUND SETUP Come on over here, we’ll do a little organizing and than we’ll get ready to march.. The protest in June was also being held, in part, because the park has a big party to attend… On August 18, 2021….Friendship Park officially turns 50. PAT NIXON VIDEO "A little later I’m hoping to go right across…. I hope there won't be a fence too long here." [applause] Friendship Park Protest Clip 15 John Talking Anniversary It was 50 years ago in August of 1971, that first lady, Pat Nixon inaugurated the surrounding area as California state park. And many of you have seen that video PAT NIXON VIDEO SOUND UP I know all of you will enjoy surfing, swimming, visiting our neighbors to the south, i’m going to come down here and go surfing one day. I’ve never done it but I’m gonna try it.….. Friendship Park Protest Clip 15 John Talking Anniversary …..She asked her security detail to cut the barbed wire so she could greet the people in Mexico. This is a sitting first lady of the United States, right? A Republican sitting first lady of the United States. So, uh, and she said, this is the first age of international friendship park. I hope we'll do as well on our side of the border as they've done on the theirs. I mean, this was the plan, right? The plan was clear. It was, it was, it was very transparent. And our view is that this should be a binational park… PAT NIXON VIDEO SOUND UP And I know you’re gonna have many happy times here…..making it an attractive beach land for all… Historic Video fade out BEAT After the break… In a special bonus episode of Port of Entry… Producer Kinsee Morlan follows the protesters to the border fence... Then she talks to one longtime friend of Friendship Park whose personal connection to the place keeps him pushing for the locked gates of Friendship Circle to be reopened. Ni siquiera pienses en irte . MIDROLL 1 Alan: And we’re back...Here’s Port of Entry producer, Kinsee Morlan… Kinsee: So...John Fanestil is an easy dude to spot… Friendship Park Protest Clip 7 Getting Ready to March Come on over. We'll do a little bit of organizing and then we'll get ready to, uh, to march. Typically, he’s one of the tallest guys in a crowd… Plus, he’s got a penchant for wearing a huge straw sun hat.... Friendship Park Protest Clip 2 Getting Ready with John No rush, but what I'm going to do is we're going to get organized and then we'll break into two groups. Those who want to drive in, and those who want to walk in…. On a Sunday morning back in June…. A crowd of a few dozen people circled around John in a dirt parking lot outside the entrance to Border Field State Park… That’s the California state park that butts right up to the U.S.-Mexico border fence... And John is doing his thing... He’s greeting folks, making them feel comfortable and then immediately getting down to business... Friendship Park Protest Clip 8 John welcoming the crowd Thanks so much for coming out. Bienvenidos a todos. Really appreciate your being here. Do you want me to speak in English or Spanish or both? Crowd member: In arabic! Ha. We'll go in English and if you have questions, please don't hesitate to ask. All kinds of people were there in that dusty parking lot that day… Activists, professors, church folks….Even a few families with young kids in strollers and a gentleman who’d just celebrated his 80th birthday. NAT SOUND: WHITE SHIRT Let me give you a white shirt... Everyone there was wearing white because they were asked to….partly to symbolize peace. And partly to just make themselves stand out. NAT SOUND: WHITE SHIRT Yeah it’s a white shirt, so don’t rub too much ketchup on me. Ha. So, California's border field state park is, of course, run by state park people… But because the international border is right here….there’s federal property in the park, too. The federal government actually took some of the land from the state of California by eminent domain back in 2006. And...things have changed a lot since then. BEAT I actually have a picture of myself with my then-boyfriend-now-husband on the Mexican side of Friendship Park back in 2008… We were sorta poking our heads through the huge gaps in the single fence that stood on the beach back then… I remember a bunch of kids there that day, running through the wide slots in the border fence that literally dips then disappears into the Pacific Ocean. The kids were laughing as they casually crossed back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. Families were there that day, too, having reunions through the fence… It’s a common scene here since there are all kinds of reasons people in Mexico can’t cross north to see their families….or vice versa. BEAT FADE the years that followed, the federal government just completely transformed Friendship Park. BEAT Transition (ominus) They built a 15-foot secondary wall, a watch tower and added lots of other security measures. So….now...what was once this pretty open and accessible state park is a militarized zone controlled by the U.S. Border Patrol. BEAT Friendship Park Protest Clip 10 John Talking to Crowd So when you get out there, if you're first time, you see these big double walls, those have only been there 12 or 13 years. That's not the way it was designed. That's not what it's supposed to look like. That's just the lay of the land at the moment. So….after the park was transformed into the militarized zone......John and a coalition of border activists who came to be known as the “Friends of Friendship Park” started working to get the land to look and feel a lot...well...friendlier again. And because of their activism….Border Patrol did eventually agree to opening a gate and letting people inside the two border fences… Specifically, they said they’d open the gate every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m…. Friendship Park Protest Clip 11 John Talking to Crowd And that allows people from the United States to enter in between the walls, get up against the primary wall, which is the wall covered with that thick metal mesh. And that's where people are able to meet up with friends and loved ones. We know because Border Patrol counted one year, uh, 2300 family reunions. That’s about 40 or 50 a weekend. If there were greater access, that number would explode. BEAT FADE OK, so, I want to take a few minutes to tell you a little bit about those thousands of people who use this place to meet up… There’s a common misunderstanding that most of them are undocumented. But that’s simply not the case. Friendship Park Protest Clip 12 Not Undocumented People I would venture to say 95 or higher percent of the folks who come visit on the us side are not undocumented. We get a lot of inquiries for people that are undocumented. We tell them, you know, there's a great risk because the place is surrounded by border patrol. It's one of the most heavily surveilled parts of the country. So yeah, the vast, vast majority of people would come to visit with their family on the us side are not undocumented, but they have some status in the United States, but they have a status in the United States that prevents them from leaving the country. Statuses that prevent folks from leaving the country include things like DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals DACA recipients are the folks brought over as kids who’ve been allowed to stay and work in the U.S., but haven’t been given full citizenship rights... Another status that prevents international travel is those who have immigration cases pending in courts… Or sometimes it’s folks who have a green card, or a visa or even full citizenship….but maybe they're on parole and not allowed to leave the country for awhile. Friendship Park Protest John Clip 30 There are just a lot of people who have legal residence in the United States. And if their family members in Mexico can't get a visa to come to the U.S., then friendship park becomes the only place in the world that they can see their loved ones. BEAT Friendship Park Protest Clip 13 Daca Recipient Talks about Park's Importance Hi, my name's Selene. So, um, about close to 11 years ago, my younger sister was deported and this is the only place that I can come and, um, get to see her... Selene (Suh-lain-aye) Guiterrez was one of a handful of people who got up to talk to the crowd of protesters before the hike out to Friendship Park began that day in June... Friendship Park Protest Clip 13 Daca Recipient Talks about Park's Importance And um, so it's very important to me and very special that you guys are all here. Um, I'm a DACA recipient myself, and, um, this is the only way that, um, I can see my sister, her now husband and, uh, my, my new nephew. So, um, it's very important to me to be here and represent not only myself, but a large community of people that get to be with their family members, even for a few hours in this area. So thank you so much. And I really appreciate it. John: Will you join me with aplauso for Selene…. BEAT FADE OUT NAT SOUND: FOOTSTEPS HIKING IN DIRT So...the hike out to Friendship Park from the entrance of Border Field State Park is about 1.8 miles. I used the long walk to run back and forth between the front and the back of the line of hikers, talking to folks about why they were there. Friendship Park Protest Jim Brown 1 We're, we're going out to protest border. Patrol's continued closure of friendship park. This is Jim Brown. He’s an architect in San Diego who’s been part of the Friends of Friendship Park Coalition for years. He’s also the guy behind a proposed new design for Friendship Park. The park design and plan was just released to the public by the Friends of Friendship Park group this week. and is being exhibited at Bread & Salt and The Atheneaum...two art galleries in Friendship Park Protest Jim Brown 1 And it will be an 80-acre park. Our belief is that the best security that we can have between nations is friendship and a binational park built on this site right now would remind the ordinary citizens of the United States and Mexico that indeed we are friends. Because there's so much rhetoric in the print media and on the internet that the ordinary person starts to wonder. And we all know that's not true. So...Jim has been designing different possible iterations of the park since way back in 2009. He knows the latest redesign, which would remove both the border fences at Friendship Park and essentially open the border here, is a real least in the short term. But he says he feels like the idea is a first important start of something… Something he probably won't actually see built in his own lifetime… But maybe something his daughter could… Friendship Park Protest Jim Brown 4 A lot of people ask me like, how are you going to raise the money? Like, how are you going to get the approvals? That's not what we're doing. We're creating a vision that hopefully enough people will see locally. Enough local politicians will notice and, you know, and mention up the chain. This is a decision that needs to be made in Washington, of course. Speaking of Washington and the federal government... I did reach out to the U.S. Border Patrol on this 50th anniversary.... And a spokesman for the San Diego sector gave me a written statement about why Friendship Circle is still closed. In part, he said, quote, ‘a large portion of our workforce has been allocated to the care and processing of the influx of undocumented migrants that are entering our country illegally.” That influx, he said, has left Border Patrol with not enough agents to be onsite to open the gates to Friendship Circle. Jim though? He does not buy it. Friendship Park Protest Jim Brown 5 We've had a lot of negotiations with border patrol over the years. Enough to know that, with enough people like today, we see here 40 to 50 some odd people and more growing every day, they're going to open up friendship park and they're going to do it soon. Their excuse of not having the manpower is complete nonsense. They have the money, they have the manpower. We just got to point that out to them and make them do it and live up to their responsibilities. Friendship Park Jim Brown Clip 6 They, they use everything under the sun as an excuse. BEAT FADE IN Friendship Park Jim Brown Clip 6 Uh, you know, we've been negotiating with them in good faith for all these years, for over 10 years…..Well, we're not going to let them get away with it. This is too important of a meeting place. It needs to be open immediately. BEAT Nat sound: footsteps So...the protestors and I hiked on… And I kept asking people about why they were out spending their Sunday morning protesting to reopen Friendship Circle… Friendship Park Protest Montage of People Protesting Kinsee: Can I ask you who you are and why you're out here today? My name is Maggie Baker. And I care about this region. I care about people who can't see each other. And, um, yeah, I have a history here. I have like a love affair with the border region,,,,, I'm penny Murrow. This is my husband Mike. Hi. Hi. We really support the effort to open friendship park. We'd been part of this vision for many, many years…. Hi, I'm Crystal Garcia Spitz, and I'm here to represent those that can't be here…'s had a big impact on me just to see the types of, um, reunions that get to happen. The types of celebrations that get to happen in the park…. My name’s Rachel Myers and I'm here to support the opening of the park because it is so important for families and friends to be able to see one another…..Throughout the pandemic, my daughter has been in Canada and we've been unable to cross the border. It's the longest I've been without seeing her, which definitely gives me a lot, even more empathy for folks here…… My name is Taha Hassan. I'm the emom and director of the Islamic center of San Diego. I'm here standing in solidarity with all my fellow faith leaders, brothers, and sisters, to demand the opening of the friendship park. We are, and our faith teaches us, about the importance of the unity of the families. Bringing people together. What's going on now is totally the opposite. We would the friendship park to be open and to allow families from both sides to come together, see each other and share that love….. BEAT FADE Friendship Park Protest John Clip 17 At The Beach John: So we're right. Just got to the beach. We're looking south... At the end of the nearly two-mile hike, the narrow path suddenly opened to this stunning view of a pristine, empty beach. Friendship Park Protest John Clip 17 At The Beach We’re still about a mile and a quarter mile from the border wall. And, uh, beautiful day... just beautiful. I mean, beautiful, beautiful. The group of protestors then prepared to march in silence in a single-file line that would head south on the beach... toward the border fence. Friendship Park Protest John Clip 17 At The Beach ….And our friends on the Mexican side are getting themselves organized. They’ll be marching north at the same time. We're going to try to synchronize as much as we can. Synchronizing things in the United States in Mexico is what I would call a “high degree of difficulty” kind of act. BEAT HERE…. The protesters marched quietly through the sand… Nat Sound: Footsteps in the Sand And….a the end of the march...just a few yards from the secondary border fence… A photographer snapped a photo of each protester.. Nat Sound: Photog The photos are part of the Friends of Friendship Park’s ongoing effort to document significant things that happens here…. And no one said anything… So….for about 15 minutes, the only sound on that beach was the waves crashing against the shore. Natsound: Waves Natsound: clapping Eventually, the silence was broken by loud cheers from protestors on both sides of the border. Friendship Park Protest Clip 18 Silence to Cheering sound of silence broken by cheering Friendship Park Protest Clip 20 Build that park! Build that park! Friendship Park Protest Clip 21 Robert, can you hear me through the sound system? After the march...John and his counterpart, Robert Vivar, who was running the action on the Mexican side of the border fence… They didn’t waste any time in getting the day’s Border Church service up and running.. Friendship Park Protest Clip 26 John Communion So we've set up communion on both sides of the border. We've been doing this every Sunday, since November of 2011. So this is kid’s grape juice here, a couple of tortillas. And when they are blessed, we'll count them as gifts from God. And our friends on the Mexican side are doing the same. Kinsee: With tortillas and grape juice? They might have something a little bit tastier... and they're eating a meal afterwards. A hundred people are getting fed over there. So someday we hope to join that meal. BEAT FADE IN Yeah. So someday maybe turn the wall on its side and make it a big table. There you go. So yeah, we kind of say, we're trying to turn the, turn the wall into the table of the Lord in some mysterious way, gathering around a table. Come on closer folks. If you'd like to just, uh, we'll start in with the reading and the prayers. BEAT Alan: After a quick break… Kinsee crosses the border and talks to someone with a personal connection and a long relationship with Friendship Park. No querrás perderte esto. MIDROLL 2 Alan: Y estamos de vuelta So...COVID and the lockdowns… The whole experience made Kinsee think about Friendship Park in a different way. She says being separated from her own family for months and months during the 20-20 lockdowns.. It made her better understand just how essentially important in-person meetups really are…. Robert Vivar Clip 5 Kinsee: Now that you know, people have been separated from their family because of COVID, It kind of makes me think that maybe people will be more empathetic of like, no, actually a phone call or even a zoom call is not a replacement for in-person meeting... Absolutely. Um, I think that that people get in. Uh, be more empathetic now that, you know, they faced for over a year, that family separation also. For example….I'm a grandparent and, you know, I can't see my grandkids because they're there in the U.S. and you know, they're growing up with without me, you know? Um, so I can imagine, you know, what grandparents are going through, you know, having to go through a whole year without, you know, being able to hug their grandkids, you know, grandkids. Or a gift of God to our grandparents and for you as a grandparent to be denied, uh, that gift of, of helping your grandkids, of spending time with your grandkids. It's uh, it's just it's disastrous. Kinsee: So...this is Robert Vivar...the guy who was running the protest and Border Church on the Tijuana side of the border during that Friendship Park protest back in June. He helps out, in part, because he has actually used the park in the past to see those grandkids of his…. A few weeks after the silent march..I crossed into Mexico and met up with Robert at his office. He told me about how he ended up in a situation where he can’t cross the border to see his own family. And...the story actually starts with where he was in Tijuana... And, quick aside...his birth in the border town is actually one of his little claims to fame because… BEAT ​​Robert Vivar Clip 7 I was the first kid that was born in an ambulance. Kinsee: Really? Yes, Kinsee: In the entire city? Yes. Kinsee: Oh On the red, on the red cross on the ambulance. Kinsee: Oh, that’s cool Uh, right in front of the sombrero restaurant. BEAT Six years after his birth, Robert’s family crossed the border. Robert Vivar Clip 8 We went legally, I remember getting green cards and I remember very clearly hopping on the Greyhound bus and sitting next to my dad. Robert and his family ended up in Corona, California...a city southeast of Los Angeles. And Robert eventually graduated high school then moved to L.A. and got a job at the airport. He got married….had kids... Essentially...he achieved that elusive American Dream… BEAT Transition (drama) But….then Robert started doing drugs. Just casually on the weekends with friends at first. But the drugs eventually took over his life. He ended up getting arrested for petty theft, but he says a public defender convinced him to plead guilty to possession of drugs with the intent to manufacture… The hope was that the charge would get him sent to drug rehab where he could get free help kicking his addiction. But what Robert didn’t know was that the charge came with mandatory deportation for people like him...people with green cards. So, in 2003, Robert found himself on a bus headed back to his hometown of Tijuana. And...being forced to leave his family and return to a country he left when he was just a kid, it was a culture shock to say the least He says he felt really depressed and didn’t know what to do. BEAT FADE Robert Vivar Clip 15 I was one of the fortunate ones that had family here...a kind of aunt and a cousin. So I had a place to go, unfortunately. And when I got to my aunt's house, uh, my mom's sister, um, she saw that I was, I was devastated. And, uh, she looks at me and says, you're going to be okay. Don't worry. God's here in Mexico also. And that, you know, that stuck to me pretty good. Like, yeah, that's right. He's here in TJ also, not only in the U.S. Robert tried to make the best of a bad situation, but he says he just could not find a job… Meanwhile...his wife was having some major health issues, so he says he did what he felt he had to do to take care of his family…. Robert Vivar Clip 11 SO, three months later I went back undocumented. And you know, uh, I never touched, uh, drugs again or alcohol, I just dedicated myself to working, taking care of my family. And one day, um, I was at work early in the morning and ice came knocking at my door, uh, portraying to be LAPD. Indicating that, uh, somebody was using my identity and was a real dangerous criminal. They wanted to show me the picture. So if I had seen him around the neighborhood, I could point him out and they could remove them from, uh, from the, uh, neighborhood. Well, it wasn't, you know, somebody else who they were looking for, it was, uh, it was for me. 2013...Robert got deported again. This time, he decided to stay and fight for his return to the U.S. in the courts. meantime.....Robert has actually become one of the most active and well-known immigration advocates in Tijuana. BEAT He runs a nonprofit that advocates for deported military vets and works with other nonprofits on both sides of the border… Robert Vivar Clip 9 I needed to occupy my mind on something instead of the anxiety and desperation of being deported. Uh, I came across, uh, an office that was just opening up with deported veterans. I walked in and started getting involved and came to find out that the more I got involved helping, not only deported veterans, but other deportees like myself. Robert Vivar Clip 12 And the only way that I could find that fulfillment, uh, was through the work, with helping deported veterans and, uh, deportees and deported moms and things like that. BEAT fade These days, Robert is also helping with the hundreds of asylum seekers currently stuck in a refugee camp in Tijuana. The camp is actually right down the street from his office. BEAT Transition (drama) Robert Vivar Clip 13 Look out my, my front door. It's, you know, kind of quiet, you know, a few cars rolling by, but you, uh, walk to my right. You know, it looks like maybe about 50, 60 yards. All of a sudden you'll find a, uh, uh, it's very difficult to describe because of the amount of desperation that you see. BEAT A lot of tents, a lot of makeshift tents. Uh, people sleeping on, not pieces of cardboard that have not been able to, uh, to secure tents, um, tents with, um, you know, rags on top of them and makeshift, uh, canopies. Robert is a popular guy in the migrant camp...because...he’s basically helping out as many people as he can... And meanwhile, he’s still fighting his own deportation case… He shared some big news about a recent win of his…. BEAT Fade Robert Vivar Clip 2 As a matter of fact, uh, things are going very well for me. I recently won a decision in the California Supreme court where, where my, uh, charge was, uh, vacated and, uh, the, uh, appellate court and superior court in Riverside were instructed to reverse the decision and vacate the charge, which has now been vacated and the case dismissed. And my attorneys are filing with the board of immigration appeals to reopen my immigration case and request, request to have my removal vacated also. Kinsee: Wow. Congratulations. Thank you. So...maybe soon...Robert will be able to see those grandkids of his in-person again… But he says that even when he is allowed back in the U.S...he will continue his advocacy work back here... in Tijuana. Robert Vivar Clip 3 Um, there's a lot of work to be done and it's going to be very helpful to be able to go back and forth, uh, to continue that work. Uh, you know, our, uh, slogan for our organization is leave no one behind, which is a Marine motto. And, uh, we plan on living it and continuing it. Kinsee: Wow. BEAT So...Robert is a big part of what keeps Border Church going on the Tijuana side of the fence. And he is working with John and the rest of the Friends of Friendship Park to push to get the park fully reopened by Border Patrol as soon as possible… He says the place’s importance goes well beyond just giving separated families the chance to pinkie kiss…. Robert Vivar Clip 4 We still have families showing up, not as many of course as before, and that’s part of the reason why we're being very active on both sides. You know, it's a shame; we hear so many families, so many migrants that are perishing, people that have been trying to enter the U S through, uh, the Pacific ocean out here through the, uh, through the mountains. And, you know, they take their life, uh, they put their life in danger trying to reach their family. And we know for a fact that when friendship park was open, um, this would serve as an opportunity for families to be able to come together through that border wall and bring them home uh, to continue to wait and have patience and, and fight for a way to be able to be reunited, but the legal way. And taking that away from them; we can understand that is the reason why many of them get desperate and take that perilous journey of trying to reach their family. BEAT Back in 2016… Robert got to experience the power of Friendship Park himself. That day, Border Patrol actually opened up the gates on both of the border fences… And he and others were allowed to physically embrace their family and friends on the other side. Robert says he wants other people like him to get that chance, too. Robert Vivar Clip 6 A couple of years after I got deported, uh, I was able to, uh, see my, uh, my grandkids, two of my granddaughters and my grandson through the border. Um, I was able to hug my son and my two granddaughters when they opened the gate... NEW CLIP HERE Robert says he wants other people like him to get that chance, too. BEAT FADE BEAT Transition Alan: So...lots of events like art shows, concerts and more are happening this week in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Friendship park. For the full schedule, check out friendship-park-50 dot org. That’s friendship park five-zero-dot-org. The big event is at Friendship Park on Saturday Aug. 22...the San Diego mayor will be there alongside other community leaders on both sides of the border. BEAT Port of Entry is hosted by Alan Lilienthal. This episode was written and produced by me, Kinsee Morlan. Emily Jankowski is the co-producer and director of sound design. Alisa Barba is our editor. Lisa Morissette is operations manager and John Decker is the interim associate general manager of content. This program is made possible (in part) by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people." Thanks for listening. BEAT FADE OUT

On August 18, 1971, First Lady Pat Nixon stood at the place at the southwestern most point of the U.S.-Mexico border and celebrated what was envisioned as "International Friendship Park.” That day, Nixon said, “I hope there won't be a fence too long here.” Flash forward 50 years, and the small barbed-wire fence that once demarcated the border has been replaced with two large fences, dozens of cameras, a watch tower and other security measures. In this special bonus episode produced as part of the park's 50th anniversary celebration, we talk to some of the people in Tijuana and San Diego who are working hard to keep Nixon’s vision of a fence-free binational park alive. Plus, we connect with someone who has a very personal connection with the place.