The Lights for Liberty vigil across the U.S. on Friday included a contingent of Tracy people, who gathered at Tracy City Hall to protest the treatment of migrants arriving at the U.S-Mexico border.
Tracy resident Lisa Roth organized the local event, which drew about 30 people. Roth participated in last June’s Families Belong Together march, which went from the Tracy Branch Library to City Hall.
This year she organized Friday’s vigil, again part of a nationwide event. As with last year’s march, the protest was aimed at the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents if federal agencies — such as the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — deem that the families crossed the border illegally.
That policy continues, and the border detention facilities where children are held, some for weeks on end, have been referred to by some in Congress who have visited the facilities as “concentration camps.”
“This really has struck a chord in our community. I was just grateful to catch a wave and bring it to Tracy,” Roth said.
“These are ad hoc events. They just kind of bubble up the same way the Women’s March bubbled up, and then it became an entity,” she said. “The Lights for Liberty group came out of some women, lawyers who were already doing work for migrants at the border. Because of the atrocities that people were seeing, the deplorable conditions and the inhumanity of it all, Americans are saying that this is enough. We don’t treat people this way.”
Friday’s event included a visit from Briana Gonzalez, district representative for Rep. Josh Harder (D-Modesto) of California’s 10th Congressional District. She read a statement from Harder denouncing the government’s family separation policy.
“This is such an important event because the way children are being treated at the border is absolutely disgusting, it’s inhumane and it’s un-American,” Harder’s statement read. “I believe that no child, regardless of immigrant status, should have to go without toothbrushes, or soap, or have to sleep on concrete floors. No child should ever be separated from their families.”
Harder also noted that he voted in favor of a $4.5 billion package aimed at improving conditions for people detained at the border.
“Seven kids have already died at the border since last year, and this is completely unacceptable. I was glad to vote for immediate assistance for these kids, but I believe our work is not even close to being done,” his statement said.
Roth said that her goal was to make sure that the treatment of migrants at the border would remain a political issue into the 2020 election.
“They’re making people bargaining chips for political power and it’s unacceptable,” she said. “The hope is that enough people will become engaged, and I would like to grow our community here so that we have more events here.”