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Rights advocates protest plan to build border wall

SUNLAND PARK — Religious leaders and immigrant rights advocates on Monday stood at the tall rust-colored fence that extends along this stretch of border to denounce the plan to build a new barrier.

“It’s criminal because it’s a symbol of racism,” said Christian Church Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chairman of the Poor People’s Campaign, who traveled from North Carolina to the border.

“You’ve never heard of this country talking about building a wall along the Canadian border, and yet that’s where the terrorists came through,” he said.

The gathering at the border fence is part of a 15-state tour designed to “bring communities of color together … to fight against those systems that have been promoting racism, xenophobia poverty and displacement of marginalized people in the U.S.,”said Fernando Garcia, director of the Border Network for Human Rights, based in El Paso.

Members of the nonprofit organization that advocates for immigrant rights stood along the border fence in Sunland Park holding signs that read “No Hate. No Wall.” A Border Patrol agent in his truck kept a watchful eye on the gathering, and curious children on the Mexican side peeked through the border fence at the people speaking at a small lectern set up in the desert.

The administration of President Donald Trump is moving forward with prototypes for a new border wall in San Diego and expects to award a contract for the construction if it can get funding from Congress.

“This wall is a sign of the failure of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a symbol of the lies we Mexicans were told,” said Bishop José Raúl Vera López of the Catholic Diocese of Saltillo, Mexico.

Protesters with the Border Network for Human Rights hold up signs in front of the border fence Monday in Sunland Park. (Angela Kocherga/Albuquerque Journal)

The Rev. Liz Theoharis, Presbyterian co-chairwoman of Poor People’s Campaign, said the goal of the border trip was to connect communities with shared concerns, “the right for health care, the right to making a living wage, the right to housing, the right to education for our children, the same rights that people here on the border deserve and need.”

Organizers are calling for a “moral revival” and want to mobilize Americans to speak out against the new border wall.

“We had the nerve to go over to Germany, and rightfully so, and send the president there who said, ‘Tear down this wall.’ America loses her moral authority unless we unite together (to) say tear down this wall, as well,” Barber said.