Families reunited in 'Hugs Not Walls' event at US-Mexico border

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Hugs not Walls event at the Mexico border
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Hugs not Walls event at the Mexico border
Marcelino Pizarro (2nd L) helps his son, Cesar, with a project while his wife, Alejandra Aguilar holds their baby son at home in El Paso, Texas, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson 
Marcelino Pizarro holds his baby son Matias in the living room of his home in El Paso, Texas, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson 
Marcelino Pizarro (R) talks with his wife, Alejandra Aguilar, and a friend while watching his baby son, Matias, before a church service near their home in El Paso, Texas, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson 
Cars stand parked outside of the renovated garage that Marcelino Pizarro rents in El Paso, Texas, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
The city of El Paso is seen in Texas, U.S., May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson 
Alejandra Aguilar prepares a poster to bring to an upcoming family reunification event inside her home in El Paso, Texas, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson 
Cesar Pizarro, rides his bike in the backyard of the family home in El Paso, Texas, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson 
Marcelino Pizarro arrives with his family to attend a church service near their home in El Paso, Texas, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson 
Marcelino Pizarro lets his baby son Matias play with his hand to quiet him during a church service near their home in El Paso, Texas, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson 
Marcelino Pizarro prays during a church service in El Paso, Texas, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Cars are parked outside the house of the parents of brothers Marcelino Pizarro, who lives in El Paso, U.S., and Ramon, who lives in Ciudad Juarez, in Mexico May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez 
Marcelino Pizarro and his wife, Alejandra Aguilar leave a church service, with their children, in El Paso, Texas, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson 
Fatima Paola Pizarro (L), holds her daughter Aitana Pizarro at her grandparent's home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 8, 2018. Fatima is the daughter of Marcelino Pizarro who lives in El Paso, U.S. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez 
Fatima Paola Pizarro holds her daughter Aitana Pizarro in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 8, 2018. Fatima Paola is the daughter of Marcelino Pizarro who lives in El Paso, U.S. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez 
Ramon Pizarro stops with his taxi next to a burned car in an abandoned neighbourhood in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 8, 2018. Ramon is the brother of Marcelino Pizarro, who lives in El Paso, U.S. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez 
A neighbourhood is seen from a hill in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez 
Denisse Pizarro (L) and her sister Fatima Paola Pizarro (R) hold Aitana Pizarro, Fatima Paola's daughter, while walking back from a neighbourhood store, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 8, 2018. Fatima and Denisse are the daughters of Marcelino Pizarro who lives in El Paso, U.S. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez 
Denisse Pizarro (L) and her sister Fatima Paola Pizarro sit together at their grandparent's home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 8, 2018. Fatima Paola and Denisse are the daughters of Marcelino Pizarro who lives in El Paso, U.S. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez 
Denisse Pizarro (L) and her sister Fatima Paola Pizarro (R) walk with Aitana Pizarro, Fatima Paola's daughter, on their way back from a neighbourhood store, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 8, 2018. Fatima Paola and Denisse are the daughters of Marcelino Pizarro who lives in El Paso, U.S. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez 
Eduardo Pizarro (L) sits on the staircase listening to his parents Ramon Pizarro (C) and Ana Lilia Lozano (front) as their grandson Alexis Emiliano looks at a tablet, at their home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 10, 2018. Ramon is the brother of Marcelino Pizarro, who lives in El Paso, U.S. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez 
Marcelino Pizarro greets his daughter, Denisse, and for the first time granddaughter Aitana, as his daughter, Fatima Paola, holds her baby brother, Matias, during a greeting for family members from both sides of the border during the "Hugs not Walls" event on the border of Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, U.S., May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson 
Denisse Pizarro (L) and her sister Fatima Paola Pizarro sit near an image of Mexico's patron saint Virgin of Guadalupe at their grandparent's home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 8, 2018. Fatima Paola and Denisse are the daughters of Marcelino Pizarro who lives in El Paso, U.S. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez 
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EL PASO, Texas, May 12 (Reuters) - For three minutes on Saturday, Marcelino Pizarro hugged family members he had not seen since he jumped the fence into the United States from Mexico six years ago.

The undocumented migrant was at an event with hundreds of other families with mixed immigration status who were reunited with relatives in a "hugs not walls" meeting arranged by an El Paso, Texas-based advocacy group, Border Network for Human Rights.

Pizarro, 36, says he fled his homeland because of insecurity. He worked in a juvenile detention facility where he told Reuters he received death threats from inmates. A brother lost his life at the hands of an organized crime gang, he said.

"It was just part of life," he said.

Pizarro has five children, two of whom live with him in El Paso where he now works odd jobs. One of his sons suffers from autism. His other children, including his 18-year-old daughter Fatima Paola, live in Mexico.

"I would see my friends, my cousins, all with their dads and I would get sad and cry. I wish he could have been here as I grew up," said Fatima Pizarro, who now has a daughter of her own, Aitana, who her father met for the first time on Saturday.

(Click https://reut.rs/2Gb4D3i to see a picture package.)

At the event on the border, Pizarro and more than 300 other families all donned blue shirts, while their counterparts from the Juarez, Mexico side wore white shirts to ensure no one tried to slip across. The brief reunions are approved by U.S. government agencies since participants stay on the riverbed that marks the frontier.

After speeches from the organizers, both sides rushed together for three minutes of tearful hugs, embraces and excited face-to-face conversations.

"I wouldn't trade anything for these moments. We have to enjoy them as long as we can," Pizarro said as he carried his granddaughter in his arms.

His brother, Ramon Pizarro, 51, took the opportunity to tell the family some news: he would use his job as a taxi driver to petition for a visiting visa and be able to see his brother more often.

With many other families waiting, organizers soon told them time was up, and they said their goodbyes, not knowing when they might meet again.

"The hardest part is that it's over," Pizarro said. "We have to accept it, but it's hard."

(Reporting by Julio-Cesar Chavez; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Susan Thomas)

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