About 160 people turned out for the Lights for Liberty candlelight vigil on Friday evening at Cherry Park in Weatherford to make a stand against conditions in detention camps along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Several advocates from across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex talked about the camps, other immigration-related issues and what attendees could do for the cause.
Lights for Liberty was an international movement that spawned events in almost 600 locations worldwide.
The conditions and safety of federal facilities have been called into question as many migrants have approached the border to seek asylum. The Texas Tribune has reported that children have died while in custody, and there have been reports of sexual assault.
Parker County Democratic Party Chairperson Kay Parr said the vigil started with one person being interested in hosting the event and gained more support from there. Parr recommended that attendees contact their representatives to enact change moving forward.
“Never underestimate what you as an individual can do,” Parr said. “My challenge to you is to wake up every day and say, ‘What can I do today? Well, I can be the change that I wish to see in my community and in my state.’”
Central Christian Church Family Life Minister Rev. Joanne Flowers spoke during the event from a Christian perspective and said that love is not being shown to people on the border.
“People are hurting, people are suffering because of our ineptitude, because of our lack of action, and guess what, put yourself in that situation and see how you would feel,” Flowers said. “I am here because I am concerned that we are not living our lives in love, that we are not living our lives in love for others, that we should understand that if we are truly Christians, and many of us are, that we should all ensure that the kingdom of God has come, the kingdom of God has come through our efforts and through our love.”
Flowers also called attendees to action.
“The only way you know that an organism is alive is because it’s moving, and if we’re not moving to do something then we’re dead,” Flowers said.
League of United Latin American Citizens, Texas district 21 Director Felix Alvarado said people seeking asylum are not gang members, drug smugglers, sex traffickers or animals. He also encouraged people to vote and replace political representatives on the local, state and national level.
“The question is this: who is responsible for fixing the problem?” Alvarado said. “The simple answer is Washington, but don’t expect Washington to fix anything soon.”
Methodist Immigration Ministry Justice for Our Neighbors DFW Executive Director Graham Bateman asked attendees to sign a petition to allow independent observers in the detention camps in an effort to hold the centers accountable. Justice for Our Neighbors offers immigration legal services, advocacy and education services.
“This is a time for our voices to be heard,” Bateman said.
Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services, Texas Chief Social Programs Officer Sara Fairley talked about what RAICES does for immigrants and migrants. She asked attendees to support the amendments on the National Defense Authorization Act to prevent U.S. soldiers from being used against those seeking asylum and to prevent jails from being built to house asylum seekers. Fairley also took a stand against Amazon, which she said uses technology to track immigrants, and said Amazon should cut ties with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“It is time to demand an end to these camps, the criminalization of human beings for just trying to flee violence and feel safe and to demand action from our representatives to stop this administration from bull-dozing human beings,” Fairley said.