Advocates and concerned citizens around the country protested the treatment of immigrants in detention centers at “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps” demonstrations on Friday, July 12. Vigils were planned in more than 700 cities. There was at least one event planned in every state in the United States as well as five continents.
Among them was the Eastsound vigil, where Orcas community members enjoyed music by Mandy Troxel and Sharon Abreu and listened to local speakers Georgette Wong, Bedford Gándara-Perea, Jesus “Chucho” Coro and Aliza Diepenbrock, among others. A “Postcards to Reps” table set up near the stage offered pre-addressed envelopes to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, and Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, as well as talking points for constituents.
“It’s devastating to learn that our government is separating children from their families, cramming people into overcrowded detention cells and preventing refugees from accessing basic necessities like food, soap and clean water,” a handout stated.
Between songs by Abreu, Wong, a “recognized expert in how to use money to facilitate social change,” took the stage. Through tears, she spoke on the similarities between then and now, comparing Japanese-American internment camps during WWII to present-day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers.
Quoting Laura Bush, she said, “’[Japanese internment camps] are now considered to be one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. History. We know that this treatment inflicts trauma; those who have been interned have been twice as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned.’”
Coro, a longtime Lopez and Orcas islander who made headlines earlier this year when he was detained by ICE while on his way to work, gave a firsthand account of his experience at an ICE center in Tacoma where he was held this February. He was interviewed by Judith Scott from the Orcas Island Community Foundation.
“I was really worried. I didn’t know when I would get out of there. There were families in there who had been there for over a year,” Coro said.
The Local Immigration Family Treasury issued an emergency loan of $12,000 that enabled Coro to post bond and be released. He faces a deportation hearing date in 2 years, where he will have to pay another $16,000 for a lawyer to fight for cancellation of deportation. A crowdfunding account was created in response called “Stand Up for Chucho.”
Diepenbrock spoke on her very recent experience volunteering at a shelter in El Paso, Texas, that is working to create a support system for those released from detention centers.
“ICE cut needles for diabetics; people had their birth certificates taken from them,” Diepenbrock said. She recalled an exchange with a man who asked her why she was so kind to him. He hadn’t experienced “any human dignity from anyone before arriving at the shelter.” She reminded the crowd the power of knowing together we have everything.
Continuing the conversation, The San Juan County Democrats will be hosting an informative presentation by two experts, Susan Martin and Necia Quast, on immigration, refugee policy, US foreign policy leadership and international cooperation. This event will take place at the Orcas Grange from 5 until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 30. Admission will be on a sliding scale of $10-$25.
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