September 1, 2008

Border-fence protesters plea for unity

By MichaelD. Hernandez / El Paso Times

SUNLAND PARK -- The four-day, 60-mile trek by protesters of the fence being built along the U.S.-Mexico border concluded Sunday afternoon with calls for peace, unity and stronger opposition to the border barrier.

"For us, the march has not ended," Carlos Marentes, director of Centro de Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos, the Border Farm Workers Center in South El Paso, told more than a hundred people on both sides of the fence. "On the contrary. We have stopped walking but now begins the good stuff. Now begins the work."

The U.S. government is building a fence in the El Paso area that will be nearly 100 miles long along the U.S.-Mexico border, stretching from Columbus, N.M., to Fort Hancock.

The fence is expected to be completed by the end of the year and will be part of a system of barriers in South Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California used by Border Patrol to help deter illegal immigration and smuggling.

Several organizations participated in the march that began in Fort Hancock on Thursday and drew more support as it continued west during the weekend.

Sal Quintanilla, a master naturalist with the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, said he decided to join the march on Sunday because he believes the fence will harm wild animals in the area who depend on access to



water from the Rio Grande.
"From the deer mouse all the way to the coyotes, all these animals go back between the wetlands and the river and they are just cutting things off with the fence," he said.

El Pasoan Salvador Gomez, the lone protester against the march, said he favors the fence because he believes the unchecked movement of people across the border into the United States presents a dangerous threat to national security.

Border Patrol agents in vehicles and on horses kept watch over the border and scanned the march from a distance.

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