This article originally appeared in the Standard Times
FAIRHAVEN — By a peace pole outside of the Unitarian Memorial Church, more than 40 people, with candles and some umbrellas in hand, began singing “We shall overcome.”
The rain came down harder, before eventually giving way to a rainbow.
The vigil was part of a national “Lights for Liberty” campaign which sought to raise awareness and demand the closure of immigrant detention facilities used by the government near the Mexican border.
Kelly Ochoa, a member of the church who led the event, said “We’ve seen the images on TV, we’ve seen the images in the news. And these kids are being held in camps just like, in many ways, just like some of these concentration camps from back in WWII.”
“They’re not like them, they are them,” a man chimed in, and others agreed, mentioning the Japanese internment camps in the U.S. during that same era.
Lights for Liberty in Fairhaven wasn’t listed on the main organization’s website, but an event set for New Bedford was.
According to LightsforLiberty.org, “On Friday July 12th, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps, will bring thousands of people to locations worldwide as well as to concentration camps across the country, into the streets and into their own front yards, to protest the inhumane conditions faced by migrants.”
As the speaking portion of the event was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Riverside Park, there was a downpour, causing excess water in the streets.
Ruth Chicca, an event organizer told The Standard-Times by email that before the event was rained out, Congressman Bill Keating went to the park directly from the airport after flying in from Washington, D.C.
“He spoke in the rain, even taking his tie off to tell us about what the house has tried to do and an important bill that needs attention,” Chicca wrote. After that, Fall River mayoral candidate Erica Scott-Pacheco read the demands of Lights for Liberty in Spanish and Chicca read them in English, she said.
They also had a vigil table with photographs and descriptions of children who have died in United States custody, Chicca said.
At the church in Fairhaven, Diana Painter of the Coalition for Social Justice handed out postcards, which ask government leaders to prioritize passing “An Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility” (H.3012 and S.2061) for people to fill out to send to the State House. The act would allow qualified residents in the state to apply for a standard driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status.
Ochoa said a network was formed with the Community Economic Development Center in New Bedford to provide rides to immigrants who need them to immigration appointments that are typically in Burlington, Massachusetts. The network has provided 300 rides since January, according to Ochoa.
It’s modeled after the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network (BIJAN), said Brian Pastori, deputy director at the CEDC, including the Unitarian Memorial Church, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Dartmouth and St. Martin’s Espiscopal in New Bedford.
After being released from custody at the border, they have to check in and many continue to be monitored with ankle bracelets, Pastori said.
Elizabeth Murphy of Dartmouth said she’s been driving for six months and has been working on her Spanish speaking skills.
“It’s really just about human connection and the same basic concerns that we all have for a child who is crying because they are hungry or tired or just this fear of standing in this scary, intimidating place and not knowing the language, sensing that the body language is rough and people are stressed and people are not happy that it’s crowded,” Murphy said.