- Associated Press - Thursday, July 6, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) - There were balloons, flowers and tears of happiness. Mexican parents were reunited Wednesday with sons and daughters they hadn’t seen in decades because their children have been living in the United States.

The parents came through a family-reunification program organized by the Mexican state of Morelos that allows Mexican families to stay together for about three weeks. The U.S. granted the visitors tourist visas.

“I am so happy”, said Candido Macoto, a worker at a flower shop in Brooklyn who had not seen his mother, Magdalena Garcia, in 21 years.

Macoto welcomed her with tears in his eyes at a boat docked at the Chelsea Piers. He brought his wife, son, daughter and grandson with him.

Twenty-six other Mexican families were reunited as part of the program, called “Corazon de plata” (“Silver heart”).

Other Mexican states, such as Puebla, carry out similar programs. Among the requirements: Mexican parents need to be 60 or older, never have been in the U.S. before and have had a son or daughter submit an application. The families paid for the flights and boat ride Wednesday.

“It’s been a long time,” said Garcia, 67, while holding a bouquet of red roses her family had brought her. Most of the sons and daughters who waited at the boat to meet with their parents left Mexico years ago and are not legal U.S. residents.

Marta Mendez hugged her father, Luis Mendez, amid the applause of the rest of families.

“I am thankful to God for making this possible,” she said. Father and daughter had not seen each other in 24 years.

The Mexican immigrants who live in New York applied to the program through a local group called Pulso New York, which became a link between the families and Morelos. The parents flew together from Mexico City and will return to their home country on July 24. There is no limit in the number of participants of the program.

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