Hundreds of demonstrators against immigration detention centers plan to protest Friday, July 12, in Los Angeles and across the nation, with candlelight vigils also in Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Dubbed “Lights for Liberty,” more than 650 events are planned nationwide and in Mexico, Canada, some European cities and a handful of other countries to protest overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in many of the public and private facilities that hold immigrants.
In Los Angeles, more than 780 people indicated on Facebook as of Wednesday that they would be outside the Metropolitan Detention Center, 535 Alameda St., between 7 and 9 p.m.
Other vigils protesting conditions at immigrant detention centers in Los Angeles County include gatherings at the Manhattan Beach pier, Veterans Park in Redondo Beach, the Sherman Oaks Galleria in the San Fernando Valley and La Canada Congregational Church in La Canada.
In Orange County, rallies are planned in Brea, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Los Alamitos, Orange, and Santa Ana.
“People all over the country are angry and upset about what’s going on in detention centers and the conditions asylum seekers are subjected to,” said Jackie Menter, who heads the Orange County Jewish Coalition for Refugees and helped organize the Santa Ana vigil.
In San Bernardino, the largest protests appear to be scheduled outside the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Adelanto Detention Center. And in Riverside County, there’s at least one vigil, at the Temecula Duck Pond & Veterans Memorial.
Protesters are calling for an end to the detention centers, which house both immigrants who have crossed illegally into the United States and those who are legally seeking asylum and have turned themselves in to immigration authorities.
With a large influx of Central Americans and other migrants at the border, the facilities – which resemble prisons in many ways – are beyond capacity and have come under increasing scrutiny.
Government investigators released a report July 2 of “dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention,” and included photos of hundreds of people crammed closely together. Some adults had not had a shower “for as long as a month,” according to the Office of Inspector General report. This week, the United Nations Human Rights Commission chief condemned the detention of migrant children and said it may violate international law.
But some Americans believe the conditions at the detention centers have been exaggerated and the controversy props up Democratic congress members.
“Why doesn’t this group visit and attend to the suffering Americans in our nation?” anti-illegal immigration advocate Robin Hvidston said in a statement Wednesday.
“We have more than 610,000 homeless Americans, more than 400,000 U.S. kids in foster care and millions of disabled Americans and veterans,” wrote Hvidston, who heads the Claremont-based We the People Rising organization. “Our members of Congress should be supporting federal laws and law enforcement in order to keep this nation safe.”
Staff Writer Kirsten Farmer contributed to this report.