Information provided by School of the Americas Watch and compiled by Josh Sturman for this article

At a time when refugees who are fleeing U.S.-sponsored violence are being branded as criminals, rapists and terrorists, and as anti-immigrant rhetoric continues to poison the public discourse in this election year, it is important for people of conscience to take a stand and to offer a different narrative.

As politicians build walls, we must build bridges.

We need to build grassroots power to challenge the racist status quo and we need to take action. Immigration has been the biggest issue so far in the 2016 presidential election campaign, yet every major candidate has remained silent about the connections between militarized U.S. foreign policy and the reasons why people flee here for their lives.

Instead of welcoming refugees as required under international humanitarian standards, the U.S. is treating them as criminals and imprisoning them for profit. Moreover, the U.S. “solution” to the so-called child migrant crisis has been to further militarize the borders of Mexico and Central America. Mexico now deports more Central Americans than the U.S. – with our tax dollars. Enough is enough! We must answer the call for solidarity, speak truth to power, and demand an end to the manifestations of U.S. violence in the Americas and beyond!

After consulting with communities and organizers on the front lines of resistance along the U.S./Mexico border, School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) has decided to move its annual convergence to the border. They are expanding their focus, and will shine a light on the many human rights violations caused by destructive U.S. foreign policy that the School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC) represents.

The SOA Watch movement began as a response to what was happening in El Salvador in the 1980’s, when Salvadoran troops trained at the SOA were butchering civilians and peace activists, including Archbishop Oscar Romero. The patterns of violence and forced migration established during the dirty wars of the 20th century have continued unabated as a direct result of U.S. economic and security policies in Mesoamerica as well as the U.S.-led Drug War. How do we respond to this current reality in the same way we responded to the violence in the 1980’s? Where should our energies lie?

This year’s vigil in Nogales, Arizona is a response to the present-day call to solidarity.

The border mobilization in Nogales is one more way to fight for the closure of the School of the Americas, and to work towards a world that is free of suffering and violence. We cannot forget that many of our immigrant brothers and sisters are survivors of U.S.-sponsored atrocities in Latin America. In calling attention to the militarization of the border, we continue to demand an end to state-sponsored terrorism and violence against our communities on both sides of the border.

We invite you to join in our efforts to organize our community to stand with human rights activists, torture survivors, union workers, veterans, community organizers, migrants, faith communities, students and educators from across the Americas.

For more information on SOA Watch Pittsburgh and the convergence in Nogales, contact josh@thomasmertoncenter.org.

Josh Sturman is an intern for the School of the America Watch of W. PA and an intern with the Anti-War Committee. He is also a graduate student at Duquesne University.