Activists set to rally against immigrant detention centers Friday

Brandon Paykamian • Jul 10, 2019 at 6:55 PM

Local activists are organizing a vigil Friday at Founders Park to protest President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies and the treatment of detainees in immigration detention centers. 

The rally, which will be held in concert with other Lights for Liberty demonstrations at 8:30 p.m., aims to “shine a light on the horrific abuses of the Trump administration in human detention camps,” according to the event’s Facebook page. As of Wednesday, more than 600 Lights for Liberty vigils have been organized in all 50 states and in 35 other nations across five continents.

The conditions in some federal immigration detention centers have been condemned and criticized by various immigrant rights advocacy organizations, Amnesty International, the United Nationslegislators and the American Civil Liberties Union after reports of alleged overcrowding, abuse against detainees, substandard medical treatment, unsanitary conditions in cells and the disappearance of over 1,500 child detainees who are unaccounted for.

“No efforts were made to identify or track these children when they were separated from their parents,” Sam Miller, one of the vigil’s organizers, said Wednesday. “They have no way to ensure that these children are going to be returned to their parents or families. When you have parents who are put on planes and deported while their children aren’t sent with them, that’s a human rights issue.” 

“That should be an issue for everybody; it’s not a partisan issue,” she later added, calling the centers’ conditions “deplorable.” 

Third District State Republican Executive Committeewoman Anita Hodges Taylor said the vigil organizers should go to the border and “see (the detention centers) for themselves” — as Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., have — before they make a judgment on the situation. In Taylor’s view, people opposed to the centers and Trump’s immigration policies are “brainwashed by the far-left.”

“They don’t have firsthand information. They are listening to news that is quote ‘fake news’ because they’re trying to do anything they can against our president, and they will just conjure up information that is not true,” she said. Taylor said she believed those who have visited the centers and remained opposed to them are politically-motivated.

Miller said Americans on both sides of the aisle should be demanding better treatment of detainees, who she said cost taxpayers about $750 a day each to hold. She hopes the worldwide protests will put pressure on the U.S. government to shut down the detention centers.

“We are not focusing on Trump. What we are focusing on are the human rights issues and the abuses of these children,” she said. “We have six children for sure who have died in the custody of the U.S. government, and there may be more that we don’t know about because they’re blocking access so many times to even doctors who want to go in or people who want to try to help.”

As for the conditions in the centers, Roe said he disagrees with what he sees as unfair characterizations of the detention centers that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and others recently called “concentration camps.” 

“The real reason why overcrowding at detention facilities is occurring is that Democrats blocked funding for ICE beds, forcing processing facilities to keep certain detained migrants longer than necessary,” Roe said. “Furthermore, comparing these detention facilities to Nazi death camps, as some leading Democrats have done, is disgraceful. Migrants in these facilities have access to basic necessities like medical care, food, water and toiletries.

“Make no mistake — calls to end detention facilities are calls for open borders and the end of American sovereignty.”

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