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15 Vigils Planned In Mountain West Protesting Treatment Of Detained Migrants

Lights for Liberty
A poster advertising an upcoming series of vigils across the nation.

People are protesting the U.S.’s treatment of immigrants, with vigils planned across the country for the night of Friday, July 12. Collectively, the national event is called “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps.” 

Toby Gialluca, one of the event’s co-organizers, says “concentration camp” is a strong term, but there’s a reason they picked it: the definition in the dictionary.

“It is the concentration of a group of people in a space that is designed to segregate them from the rest of the population and is, generally speaking, inadequate as far as managing human needs,” says Gialluca, who is also a volunteer attorney working with migrants detained in Texas. 

Major concerns include a backlog in processing asylum applications and bad conditions at detention centers.

“People are getting backed up in these places that are not designed for residential care,” says Gialluca. “There’s no beds, there’s no running water, there’s not sufficient access to restrooms, there’s no showers, there’s no soap. They’re overcrowded in these cages and it’s turned into a humanitarian and a health crisis.”

According to a map assembled by the group Freedom for Immigrants, there are about a dozen detention centers in our region:

Recent reports, including by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, describe “dangerous overcrowding” and “prolonged detention” sometimes far longer than the general 72-hour standard.

“This is an event that is allowing people to come together and present as a group saying, ‘We will not accept this. This is not the way we will allow our government or our country to function. We don’t condone these kinds of human rights violations,’” she adds.

The vigils have mushroomed from five to an estimated 500 worldwide. At least 15 of them are scheduled to happen in the Mountain West, including four in Colorado, one each in Idaho and Wyoming and three each in Montana, Nevada and Utah.

The events are planned to involve speeches, interfaith blessings and peaceful candlelight ceremonies starting at 9 p.m. 

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. 

Rae Ellen Bichell was a reporter for KUNC and the Mountain West News Bureau from 2018 to 2020.
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