Around 500 people gathered at Friday’s “Light’s for Liberty” Vigil to protest immigration detention centers housing children along the border.

In a three-block-long, 500-person-strong procession on Friday evening, the community of Santa Barbara joined the nationwide Lights for Liberty movement, calling for the closure of detention centers housing immigrant children and demanding an end to family separation. The crowd gathered under the arches of the Santa Barbara Courthouse where different organizations were handing out candles and manning sign-making stations. After brief comments from Pastor Art Stevens and organizer Jaquie Inda, the group marched to City Hall for further comments from more speakers. 

The gathering was one of the most diverse in recent history, with children and folks of all ages and ethnicities. Still, Assemblymember Monique Limón highlighted that many people who would have liked to join the vigil didn’t out of fear. In addition to Monique Limón, protesters heard emotional testimonies and messages from more than half a dozen other community members and local officials.

Pastor David Moore shared statements made by children in ICE custody: Children said mylar blankets were not enough to keep them warm; they said they were hungry and some regularly were woken up by hunger pains; they said there were little kids, as young as 2 or 3 with no one to care for them; they said some children cried a lot, reported Moore.

Congressmember Salud Carbajal’s representative Blanca Figueroa recounted the testimony Carbajal and other congressmembers heard from Yazmin Juarez who watched her 19-month-old daughter die while they were both in ICE custody. Former Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa informed the crowd about the case of Juana Flores, a mother of 10 and grandmother of 15, who was deported to Mexico from Goleta last year. Flores had been in the United States for more than 30 years when she was deported, said Ochoa. The case is currently being fought in court.

The two-hour rally ended with Inda calling for action from the crowd. “From here on out, get involved, go to meetings. Act!,” said Inda.

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