Gate at old border fence near Friendship Park opens for the first time ever on Sunday

Father able to see daughter for first time

SAN DIEGO - Sunday marked the first time that a gate in the older of the two fences at the United States-Mexico border near Friendship Park was opened since the fence went up almost 20 years ago.

The historic event came on Children's Day, a holiday in Latin American countries. Some participants told 10News they think the border fence's day are numbered.

Over the past two decades, that area of the border has become much more fortified. First, a fence was built in the mid-1990s and then another fence was built just north of the old one. On Sunday morning, the Border Patrol allowed the old gate to be opened. The gate has never been opened before.

As people on both sides cheered, a young father, Luis Angulo, was able to see his 5-year-old daughter Jimena for the first time, with border agents watching closely. 

As San Diego Mayor Bob Filner spoke to people on the Mexican side, the father and daughter embraced for about two and a half minutes. Then, it was time for the gate to close again. 

Afterward, Angulo tried to find words to express the once-in-a-lifetime moment. 

"It's a miracle," he said. "For all these people to come to see their families... and it's really a miracle for me."

The reason Angulo has not been able to see his daughter is that he only has a temporary visa and until he receives a permanent one, he cannot leave the United States. He told 10News he is hoping to get his permanent one soon.

Then-First Lady Pat Nixon opened Friendship Park in 1971. An old photo shows that there was no wall then, just a simple rope line. 

People who gathered at Sunday's event want the border to look like that again.

"We should be building bridges and opening gates instead of building these big walls that separate us," said Bronwyn Ingram, who is the fiancée of Filner.

The man honored with sliding back the gate's locking bar was San Diego architect and longtime Friendship Park volunteer Jim Brown. For him, the day was very special. 

"It was very emotional actually," he said. "It was a... it's such a hugely symbolic gesture to open a gate right on the primary fence, right on the border."

Enrique Morones, who founded the group Border Angels, compared the fence to the Berlin Wall, and like that wall, he said this one is destined to fall as well. 

"That's how the walls will fall," Morones told 10News. "They start with cracks and this was the first big crack, so very symbolic."

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