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Athletes swim across U.S.-Mexico border in immigrant-rights protest

Athletes from six countries join arms before swimming off from Imperial Beach, Calif., to Mexico, in
Swimmers from six countries swam from Imperial Beach, Calif. to a beach in Tijuana, Mexico, in what they say is a show of solidarity with immigrants on Friday, May 5, 2017.
(Elliot Spagat / AP)

Twelve athletes swam across the border from the United States to Mexico on Friday in a show of solidarity with immigrants amid a charged political climate.

Swimmers from the United States, Mexico, Israel, New Zealand and South Africa were escorted by a Mexican navy ship as they reached a beach in Tijuana, a short distance from a border fence that juts into the Pacific Ocean. More than 100 schoolchildren cheered, and Mexico’s top immigration official in the region applauded them at a public celebration of the 6.2-mile swim from Imperial Beach in San Diego County.

Organizer Kim Chambers of New Zealand, who is living in San Francisco as a legal permanent resident of the U.S., was overwhelmed by the jubilant reception.

Chambers, 39, came up with the idea shortly after a group swim across the Red Sea from Jordan to Israel to raise environmental awareness. She said it wasn’t a protest, but that an atmosphere of what she called negativity after President Trump’s election was the catalyst.

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The swim raised money for the Colibri Center for Human Rights, a Tucson, Ariz., group that helps families identify immigrants who die on the perilous trek across the border.

Athletes swim to cross the border from the United States into Mexico.
Athletes swim to cross the border from the United States into Mexico.
(Elliot Spagat / AP)

Rodulfo Figueroa, Mexico’s top immigration official in Baja California state, told the swimmers that their exercise was a “very nice symbol.” Mexican authorities examined their passports before they launched from California.

“We are closer than it seems at times,” said Figueroa, regional delegate of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, who was joined by Tijuana city officials.

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“At the end of the day, water connects all of us,” she said. “It doesn’t matter which way you’re going.”

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