EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Some 300 families separated by immigration status are being invited to gather in the middle of the Rio Grande on Oct.15 in El Paso for a “Hugs, Not Walls” event.

The gathering will go on despite the imminent departure of U.S. Border Patrol Sector Chief Gloria I. Chavez, who green-lighted the last event, said organizer Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights.

“This is a gathering of a humanitarian nature but also a protest where we put the spotlight on how families are being separated, destroyed by U.S. immigration policy,” Garcia said. The group is one of scores of civil rights and advocacy organizations in the United States calling for comprehensive immigration reform that includes legalization for millions of people who came across the border without authorization many years ago, have held jobs or otherwise contributed to American society and may have U.S.-born children.

The gatherings on the dry riverbed are supervised by U.S. immigration authorities who allow people to walk south of the border wall in El Paso to spend time and briefly embrace loved ones staying in Mexico. Afterward, everyone goes back the way they came, unimpeded.

The first “Hugs, Not Walls” event took place in 2016 despite “impossible” odds, Garcia said.

“This is something that transcends (White House) administrations. We had the first ‘Hugs, Not Walls’ happened during the Obama administration at a time people were calling him the ‘Deporter-in-Chief,’” Garcia said. “People were talking about raids and deportations, but people were not talking about the effect of immigration policies on actual families – mothers separated from their children, brothers separated from their brothers. We wanted the public to visualize the crisis Latino families are living,”

This will be the ninth “Hugs, Not Walls” event in El Paso. For more information, visit BNHR’s webpage or call 915-577-0724.