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School of the Americas Watch founder to protest in El Paso, Texas

The Rev. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of the Americas Watch and leader of the annual protest in Columbus to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, could face arrest during a 10 a.m. vigil today in El Paso, Texas.

“That is a good possibility,” Bourgeois said Saturday during a telephone interview. “We are testing the waters. Something is happening that has never been tried with the situation on the border.”

Bourgeois said a delegation of 10 SOA Watch supporters from across the country will gather at Sunland Park-Anapra Fence at Ciudad Juarez. The group will call attention to the role of the U.S. government in the militarization of Mexico, immigration and the failed war on drugs.

 To learn about the problems facing the people on the Mexico side of the border, Bourgeois said the group spent three days talking to farmers and shop keepers.

Many corporations have factories in Juarez where people earn just $4 a day or possibly $5 if you have been employed longer but still not enough to feed a family. “They can come here from the United States and exploit cheap labor,” Bourgeois said of corporations. “It is not that complicated.”

 Farm workers board a bus and cross the border to pick chili peppers in Texas to earn $10 daily.

On the Mexico side of the border, many shop keepers have boarded up their stores and fled the area for fear of death. They are threatened by gangs who want $100 a week  for protection.

 “We have heard personal stories and testimonies from people who are really in a difficult situation, suffering, fear of violence and poverty,” Bourgeois said.

“Humble homes are abandoned. There is so much violence.”

 With many people trapped and crossing the border, Bourgeois asked himself what he would do to find a better life. “You are illegal and treated as a criminal,” he said of actions by the border patrol. “I would be crossing the border. They need jobs, they need food.”

The death toll in Juarez is approaching 10,000, including 400 last year. They are victims of widespread corruption and violence in the drug trade, Bourgeois said. “Ninety percent of the drugs, cocaine and marijuana, go to the United States,” he said. “This is a big corridor here. That is why it’s so dangerous.”

Nico Udu-gama, an SOA Watch spokesman, said it’s important to note that the United States through many initiatives is continuing to militarized the region with increase border security and other actions.

“Militarization has failed,” Udu-gama said. “The war on drugs has failed.”

Bourgeois said the group will stand in support of problems faced by the undocumented immigrants.

 “The struggle of the undocumented immigrant is our struggle,” he said. “I am simply humbled and amazed how so many of them keep going.”