Area residents hold vigil for children held in immigration detention centers
A day after a “Close the Camps” coalition shut down traffic in Downtown Buffalo, vigils for those held in detention camps were held in several locations across Western New York.
More than 100 citizens gathered in Batavia for a peaceful rally and vigil Friday evening near the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to protest the inhumane treatment of children in migrant detention centers at the Southern border.
Organized by a team of concerned women, this event was part of a nationwide movement, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps. This movement has partnered with more than 150 international, national, regional and local communities and organizations, including religious groups, refugee relief services, and immigration activists.
The event included a rally with several speakers and a performance by the Rochester Raging Grannies, followed by a vigil. Rev. Jim Renfew, who spoke at the rally, commented, “Eugene Debs once said, ‘While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.’ This quote underscores the horror of child incarceration at the present time and is why I am here. It is wrong, very wrong, and even wronger than we can imagine given some of the reporting from inside of these facilities.”
Co-organizer Nikki Calhoun said, “I refuse to be desensitized to the suffering of others because they may not look like me. To do so, especially with children, opens the door for worse atrocities. This is why myself and thousands of those with a conscience across the country are taking a stand.”
Monica Elderkin traveled from Cheektowaga to the vigil in Batavia, and said, “I thought it was important to attend a vigil at an ICE facility where there are actually immigrants being held to send a message that the mistreatment of children or any of those being detained is not OK.”
While there are no children immigrants held at the Batavia facility and conditions there are known to be reasonable in comparison to facilities at the border, organizers believed holding the vigil at this location would be more effective symbolically.
More than 500 Lights for Liberty vigils were held across the United States on Friday including local events in Buffalo, Williamsville and Rochester, as well as international ones in Germany, Canada, and as far away as Japan and Senegal.
Photo: By Rachel Doktor. Doktor said when the vigil was almost over a group from the vigil lined against the gates beyond where security personnel were standing. She wrote, "We sang songs of peace, love and caring for the children of the world. A small group of people approached the gates after a while, standing close. Everyone got a little tense and watched them, but didn't stop singing. The stand off began, and they stayed until everyone else that attended was gone. They were the closest group to the gates in front of immigration."