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Emotional reunions as families come together at the US-Mexico border after nearly 2 years of separation

As the holidays approach, the ability to finally see loved ones after 20 months was particularly significant.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — After thousands of families have been separated by the border and COVID restrictions for nearly two years, many of them were finally able to come together in person starting Monday. 

The reopening of the border to non-essential travel is particularly special for so many families who have been separated because the holidays are approaching.

"It was was hard not to see them," said Eddie Iraheta, who lives in Los Angeles. 

Iraheta drove down to San Ysidro Monday to see his family, who crossed the border for a long-awaited reunion and to make plans for the coming holidays.

"We are very, very excited, you know because Thanksgiving is coming," he told News 8. 

For so many families, the holidays last year were spent apart. 

Flor Ledesma had not seen her mother, who lives in Tijuana, for almost two years.

"I am happy because it's finally open," she said.

"It was very difficult," added Edgar Cordero.

He and his daughter Melanie are now looking forward to spending Christmas with family in the states.

"I'm happy I finally get to see my family in California," Cordero said. 

As thousands of motorists from Mexico waited to cross into the U.S. Monday, they applauded the move to finally re-open the border to non-essential travel, "because people need to see their loved ones," said Leti Caudillo. 

"They really do!" she added "And they have been kept away from each other and it's not right."

"They suffered," added another motorist crossing into the United States. "They suffered when they couldn't see each other. So this is so good that they're opening it now."

Emotional reunions took place not just at the border, but throughout the country on Monday.

Bhavna Patel got to meet, and hold, her baby grandson for the very first time Monday at JFK Airport in New York.

"Just elated," Patel told reporters. "No words.. I don't have any words."

Beginning in January, all travelers coming into the United States will be required to show proof of vaccination, whether their travel is considered essential or non-essential.

WATCH RELATED: US-Mexico border crossing reopens to non-essential travel after 20 months