SUNLAND PARK, N.M. — Hundreds of families and border residents separated by the U.S.-Mexico border gathered Monday at a chain-link fence separating the countries for a binational protest targeting U.S. immigration policy.

Mothers sobbed, sisters exchanged laughs and children swapped candy through the fence during an event organized by immigrant rights activists to illustrate how the border and immigration policy divides families. The event, timed to coincide with Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico, drew about 50 people on the Mexican side and an estimated 250 on the U.S. side.

The Vatican has said that the pope’s journey through Mexico, which takes him from the southern state of Chiapas to the northern border with Texas, symbolically traces the route of migrants trying to reach the United States. On Wednesday he will celebrate an outdoor Mass in nearby Ciudad Juarez, opposite its northern U.S. sister city of El Paso.

Monday’s protest was held near where Texas, New Mexico and Mexico meet. Sunland Park is a small New Mexico city opposite Anapra, a suburb of Juarez, in Mexico’s Chihuahua state.

The gravel lot is also the site of an annual gathering at which families on both sides of the border meet. Some protesters – including several women who are in the U.S. illegally – gave testimony just steps from the fence and Border Patrol officials inside their vehicles.

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