Lights for liberty

Protesters circle the Main Plaza during Lights for Liberty in downtown New Braunfels on Friday, July 12, 2019.

The detention centers that have been spotlighted in national news drew New Braunfels residents out Friday night for an event that was being held all over the country.

“Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps,” was put together by the New Braunfels chapter of Indivisible, an organization that has been fighting for progressive policies and against the Trump administration.

According to Freedom for Immigrants, Texas has the most immigrants detained with 15,852. Complaints reported and documented involve medical, nutrition, and prolonged detention. 

The National Immigrant Justice Center stated there are no formally binding regulations or statutory provisions governing the standards of care at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities. 

While ICE does have three sets of detention standards, the NIJC says contractors are not required to adopt the most recent standards when entering or extending their contracts with the federal government. 

FFI says it costs taxpayers $149.58 to detain one person for one day in privately-run immigrant detention centers.

Lydia Casarez Rogers, president of the Democratic Women of Comal County, said knowing her tax money goes to the centers makes her sick.

“If we cannot find a way right now with what we are witnessing and what our tax dollars are paying for, that's the worst part of it,” Casarez Rogers said. “My hands are dirty on some level.”

She said the only thing she asked for is to be fair and to follow the law. 

"It’s all that anybody wants — especially as far as the children are concerned,” Casarez Rogers said. “If we can't find some sort of compassion and empathy and figure out a way to manage this, we're lost as a country.”

The event began with a prayer by Reverend Scott Martin of Faith United Church of Christ. 

Martin said he has visited the detention center in McAllen, but he and his group were not allowed in.

“I've been to Central America a number of times and I’ve been to Mexico to Tijuana and I've seen the migrant house there in Tijuana, but that was a while back, so this is not a new issue,” Martin said. “It's just that maybe the scale is larger today than it’s been in the past.”

Martin also said the issue is more crucial than in the past with family separations and the crowding that’s taking place.

Speakers such as Peggy Ornelas, a volunteer for the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, told the crowd that after Friday night’s event, they need to get involved by reaching out to organizations such as the IWC, Catholic Charities, and RAICES.

Ana Fuentes, a Canyon High School senior and president of the Comal County Young Democrats, gave a speech in English and Spanish to the crowd. Afterward, she and Riley Lillibridge, a recent graduate of New Braunfels High School, played guitars and sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” while the crowd sang along.

At the end of the event, everyone with flashlights walked around the Main Plaza.

Casarez Rogers said she believes in change, humanity and that there are more people who want things to change. 

“There’s more people that believe in justice in our Constitution that we seem to have forgotten about,” she said. “And I hold on to that belief, and the hope that it still exists in our country.”


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