We can end American concentration camps together.
Millions of Americans are seeing reports of migrants suffering abusive conditions in U.S. custody and wondering what they can do.
When you hear one story, you may assume it's an anomaly. When you hear a few stories, you might think they're just rumors. But at this point, the number of reports from on-the-ground sources documenting blatant human rights abuses on our soil cannot be ignored.
We have doctors, lawyers, public health officials, civil rights experts, and reporters sharing horrifying first-hand accounts of what is happening to people—to children—we have detained.
We have administration officials on video telling incredulous judges that children in overcrowded detention centers do not need access to showers, soap, toothbrushes, or blankets.
We have people arguing over whether our detention camps should be "technically" considered concentration camps, as if the question itself is not a sign that we've crossed a line somewhere.
We have reports of thousands of immigrant children being sexually abused in detention centers, some of them by staff members themselves.
We have innocent children dying in our custody.
Here's part of a first-hand account from Warren Binford, an internationally recognized children's rights scholar and Director of the Clinical Law Program at Willamette University in Oregon. She visited a Clint, Texas detention facility, spoke with the children being held inside, and shared what she found with PBS:
"Basically, what we saw are dirty children who are malnourished, who are being severely neglected. They are being kept in inhumane conditions. They are essentially being warehoused, as many as 300 children in a cell, with almost no adult supervision.
We have children caring for other young children. For example, we saw a little boy in diapers — or he had no diapers on. He should have had a diaper on. He was 2 years old. And when I was asked why he didn't have diapers on, I was told he didn't need it.
He immediately urinated. And he was in the care of another child. Children cannot take care of children, and yet that's how they are trying to run this facility. The children are hardly being fed anything nutritious, and they are being medically neglected.
We're seeing a flu outbreak, and we're also seeing a lice infestation. It is — we have children sleeping on the floor. It's the worst conditions I have ever witnessed in several years of doing these inspections."
A mass mobilization effort is underway to stand in solidarity against human detention camps on July 12.
There are many ways that people have suggested helping. Donating money to legal advocacy groups who specialize in immigration law definitely helps. But what if we want to make a strong, unified stand against these atrocities? Millions of us want to speak as one voice to say, "No more of this. Not on our soil. Not on our watch."
Enter "Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps." On July 12, a mass gathering will take place at detention centers around the country, in addition to local communities, to shed a literal light on the inhumane conditions being faced by asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
The mission of Lights of Liberty is simple:
"We are a coalition of people, many of whom are mothers, dedicated to human rights, and the fundamental principle behind democracy that all human beings have a right to life, liberty and dignity.
We are partnering with national, regional and local communities and organizations who believe that these fundamental rights are not negotiable and are willing to protect them.
On Friday July 12th, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps, will bring thousands of Americans to detention camps across the country, into the streets and into their own front yards, to protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees."
As of today, vigils are scheduled in 75 locations around the country and the world, with more being added every day. If you want to find an event near you or organize a vigil in your area, go here.
"Now is a time to stand for what is best in all of us, to stop the worst of us."
Organizations are lining up to sponsor the Lights of Liberty vigil. The United Farm Workers Foundation, The Dolores Huerta Foundation, Al Otro Lado, New Sanctuary Coalition, Black Movement Law Project, V-Day, the ACLU of Southern California , One Billion Rising, Code Pink, and more than a dozen other organizations have already signed up to sponsor the vigil. The main event is scheduled to take place in El Paso, Texas, where legislators, activists, organizers, and members of impacted communities are expected to speak at 7pm, leading up to the nationwide candlelight moment of silence at 9pm.
"We shine a light on the inhumane treatment of migrants and refugees by the current administration. To be silent is to be complicit. To sit this out is to be complacent. Now is a time to stand for what is best in all of us, to stop the worst of us. We must stand for one another. At New Sanctuary Coalition, we hold in our hearts a vision of a world worth fighting for," said Ravi Ragbir, Executive Director of New Sanctuary Coalition, in a press release.
"I've been inside these camps, and the conditions are beyond description. Twenty-four adults and six children that we know of have already died as a result," said Toby Gialluca, lawyer, activist and member of the organizing team of Lights for Liberty. "The world must take a stand against this administration and stop these camps before more lives are lost."
There is no doubt that it's hard to handle an influx of migrants and asylum-seekers. But that doesn't excuse torturing families and children. The administration has admitted to tearing children from their mother's arms on purpose to deter illegal border crossings, while at the same time blocking asylum seekers at trying to come legally through ports of entry. That leaves desperate people in impossible circumstances, and creates an even greater crisis.
There's no excuse for treatment like this. It's time to make our voices heard. Mark your calendars for July 12.