Local News

“Lights for Liberty” Vigil in Brea

150-200 people gathered at the corner of State College and Imperial Highway in Brea for a “Lights for Liberty” vigil on July 12, expressing their opposition to the current administration’s immigration policies, which have separated thousands of children from their parents, and placed thousands in crowded, substandard detention facilities, simply for trying to cross the border. This was part of a massive “Lights for Liberty” protest that took place in cities around the country.

Photo by Danny Torres.

The event began with the group singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A recurring theme of the event was a re-affirmation of the American values of freedom and justice for all.

Following this, a series of speakers, including some local religious leaders, gave messages and prayers for the migrants currently being detained at the border, and those waiting in Mexico, who have been denied asylum, in violation of International law.

Father Dennis Kriz, pastor of St. Philip Benizi church in Fullerton said that his parents were born in a country that suffered under both Nazi and communist oppression.

“When I heard first of the child separations, and then the absolutely insane plan of ripping the kids away and flying them to the ends of this country, I immediately thought of Stalin, of the gulags,” Kriz said. “This is exactly what [Soviet dissident Aleksandr] Solzhenitsyn wrote about. Only Stalin had the decency of doing this with adults, not with kids…To this day, we don’t know where hundreds of the kids that were taken away last year have gone, or where their parents are. It’s unbelievable.”

Photo by Danny Torres.

Reverend Terry Le Page from the Brea Congregational church explained that Orange County jails are getting out of the immigrant detention business, and the detainees are being relocated to Adelanto in the high desert, northwest of Victorville, a private for-profit facility that is the largest immigrant detention center in the country.

She pointed out that there are 20 other “short term” border patrol facilities besides the one in Clint, Texas that was exposed by the lawyer Elora Mukherjee, who said, “If journalists had access to the detention centers at the border where children are being held in filthy conditions, these centers would not exist.”

“What is going on in them? We honestly don’t know. Supervision of facilities holding detainees is inadequate or non-existent. There is no bottom-line standard of care for immigrants. There is no bottom-line standard of care for children, as we saw in court last week. America, we are better than that,” Le Page said.

Photo by Danny Torres.

A representation of Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva’s office gave a statement: “Sharon Quirk-Silva stands with immigrant communities, and so does the state of California. If anyone needs any assistance with state-related services, regardless of immigration status, we’re here to help you. What’s happening at the federal level is not just; it’s not legal. We are here to support everyone, regardless of immigration status.”

Mark Hansen, a representative from Congressman Gil Cisneros, read a statement from the congressman, explaining why Cisneros voted against a recent supplemental appropriations bill that would have provided funding for more border security:

“In good conscience I cannot vote for the Senate supplemental bill. We have an urgent, moral responsibility to protect the health, dignity, and lives of immigrant children, and this bill does not adequately guarantee they are given the humanitarian aid and services they need. I could not support legislation that allows centers to waive requirements for services, and does not provide minimum standards of medical care, food, water, hygiene for these families. Proper oversight is needed to ensure that these families and children are not kept in inhumane conditions while they wait to be reunited with their family members and have their cases adjudicated.”

Patricia Hanzo, a main organizer of the rally, said, “I came to this country when I was four years old, and I was not separated from my mom. So this is very personal to me… A lot of babies and toddlers who are still not potty trained, are sitting in dirty diapers and are yelling, ‘Mama! Abuela! Tia! Mama! I’m alone! Where are you? Ayudame! Help me!’…I want us to think about what they might be feeling, and have these conversations with our neighbors, and our families. That way, we can increase compassion, and we can de-fund this hate.”

Photo by Danny Torres.

Mandye Yates, the pastor of Fullerton First Christian Church, read from a poem called “Home” by the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire:

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.

You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.

You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.

No one burns their palms under trains, beneath carriages,

No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck, feeding on newspaper, unless the miles traveled mean something more than journey.

No one crawls under fences, no one wants to be beaten and pitied.

I want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark,

Home is the barrel of the gun.

And no one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore,

Unless home told you to quicken your legs, to leave your clothes behind, to crawl through the desert, to wade through the oceans, to drown, to save, to be hungry, to beg, to forget pride. Your survival is more important.

No one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear saying, “Leave. Run away from me now. I don’t know what I’ve become but I know that anywhere is safer than here.”