Candlelight vigil protests U.S. detention centres for asylum seekers

July 19, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Paula Brown

A candlelight vigil was held last Friday (July 12) by two Orangeville-based Americans as part of a Lights for Liberty movement peacefully protesting detention centres in the U.S. 

“We’re still very up to date with the U.S. politics and news and now we’re totally disgusted and outraged, with what’s happening,” said Rachel Kulbacki, one of the co-organisers of the vigil. 

Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps, was held at Alexandra Park as part of a movement protesting and raising awareness to detention centres in the U.S. The vigil was held globally in over 800 locations, including 10 in Canada. 

 Jeanne-Marie White and Rachel Kulbacki, organisers of the Orangeville vigil, are both Americans who came to Canada in 2011 and 2012. 

“Both Rachel and I are Americans and I’ve been watching a lot of the reports on TV about just the absolutely atrocious and inhumane way that a lot of asylum seekers are being treated in the United States,” said Ms. White. 

A small crowd gathered around a picnic bench, lighting their single candlesticks encased in Dixie cups. In a speech, Ms. White spoke of the conditions migrants and asylum seekers face in the detention centres. 

“It’s just getting to such an extreme level because there’s so much overcrowding, it’s not being handled appropriately,” she said. “I mean it’s just inconceivable that this is happening.”

Detention centres have been a part of the Trump Administration’s policy on immigration, with asylum seekers being imprisoned after attempting to cross the border from Mexico. Many of those crossing are from Central America, where they faced poverty, warfare, and violence.  Conditions in the detention centres have been a large talking point for civil rights activists, lawyers and media. they say conditions in these centres include inadequate food and water, overcrowding, and lack of basic needs. 

Another issue in discussion of the detention centres is the separation of children from their families, and the known deaths of five migrant children held by the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. 

“Many of those children they’ve lost track [not knowing] who their parents are. They’re going to be unable to be reunited,” said Ms. Kulbacki.

A part of the Lights for Liberty movement was to raise awareness and part of their reason for organizing the vigil, Ms. White and Ms. Kulbacki said, was to inform Canadians about what is happening in these detention centres. 

“We are from a very privileged society here in Canada and even the U.S that we don’t have to think about the things that migrants think about. We’re not in that desperate position where we are travelling thousands of miles to escape violence, poverty and corruption. I just hope that we realize what a privilege world we live in and we have the opportunity to make a change in this world and voice our opinions,” said Ms. Kulbacki. 

While the candles burned down, illuminating more with the setting sun, the group took five minutes of silence in honour of the children still imprisoned and the ones that died while in ICE custody. 

“We have to maintain our compassion and our humanity through this even if it seems like it’s an inconvenience to us as a society,” said Ms. White.

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