Border Field State Park was the scene of cross-border Christmas prayers and songs on Saturday, December 8, as more then 200 people gathered for the 19th annual Posada, formally the celebration of Joseph and Mary's search for lodging in Jerusalem before the birth of Jesus. The event was also billed as a call to "stand with those who suffer."
The parking lot of Friendship Park atop Monument Mesa overflowed with cars as the U.S. Border Patrol opened the outer gate to let hundreds of people stand with dozens more on the Mexico side of the fence.
Although the state parks road has been passable for at least two weeks, it has been closed on weekends. Posada organizers obtained a permit and paid a fee to allow people to drive the 1.5 miles from the always-locked outer gates to the park.
For some, the gathering was a chance to visit with family through the fence; for others, a rare chance to see the remarkable beauty — the ocean in the background, with dolphins — at the outside corner of the U.S.
Christmas carols rang across the mesa, and people on both sides recounted the pains of separation and called for compassion to inform immigration policy. The welcoming of the stranger is the heart of the story of the Posada, how travelers Joseph and Mary were welcomed and made safe by people willing to help strangers.
Rev. John Fanestil of Foundations for Change, Enrique Morones of the Border Angels, pastor Ruben Torres of the United Church of Escondido, and the bishop of the United Methodist churches in Los Angeles led prayers for compassion.
Meanwhile, bored children ran and played in the usually secured area, while sisters put their hands over each other's, a fence in between.
Border Patrol presence was low key and gracious, and there were no conflicts. Many of the attendees took time to thank the federal agents for renewed access to the park, a policy the feds have committed to.