I met Jose Marquez in May of 2016, during one of my frequent visits to the border wall at Friendship Park in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, just across the border from San Diego, California.
The 67 year old Mariachi singer had come to see his daughter Susanna. Although they live just a few miles apart, they have been separated for almost 15 years, since Marquez was deported from the United States.
But for the past 2 years, they try to meet at least once a month at the wall. They talk, they smile, they reminisce, they ask and answer each other’s questions and touch fingertips. Susanna wishes she could hug her father but for now she is happy just to see him, to be this close to him. Other people don’t have this opportunity. Then Marquez sings to his daughter. The people nearby hear the music, a crowd starts to gather on both sides of the border around the small impromptu concert, such a simple thing, a father serenading his daughter at the park, only they are separated by national boundary lines, a 20 foot fence of metal and mesh and a broken immigration system. The concert comes to an end, the crowd cheers and applauds and as they disperse and spread along the wall, Susanna and her father are left alone again at the fence, leaning into it, looking at each other, talking about life, the times that they have missed. They wish they could embrace, instead they just touch fingertips.
This is how Jose, Susanna and so many families separated by immigration status meet at Friendship Park, the only federally established binational meeting place along the 2,000-mile border dividing the United States and Mexico.I was touched by the story of Jose Marquez and his daughter Susanna. So much so, that two months after I met them, I was back in Tijuana to shoot this short documentary. My goal was to address the issue of the thousands of families who are suffering the tragedy of familial separation.