As the American flag blew gently in the breeze and the sky grew dark, candles held by several hundred people gathered in front of the former Bucks County Court House slowly filled the crowded space with a soft glow.
Doylestown’s Lights for Liberty vigil on July 12 was part of a nationwide effort to draw attention to the plight of detained immigrants being held in American centers.
“We want to shine a spotlight on the inhumane and cruel policy changes that have impacted people not only at the border but here in our community,” said Sue-Ann Divito, a co-organizer of the event and co-founder of the all-volunteer organization, Immigrant Rights Action of Doylestown.
Many in the crowd, which ranged in age from 6-year-olds to those in their 90s, carried signs like Christine Angulo’s, reading “An American was kind to your ancestors.” Asked why she came to the vigil, the New Hope woman said, “because children are being held in cages.”
“They just want a chance,” added Paul Angulo, Christine’s husband.
Recent reports have documented the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in many migrant detention centers.
Amanda Trejbrawski, of Buckingham, brought her children, ages 12 and 9, to the vigil, because, “I just want them to be aware, to be good citizens and see outside their own world,” she said.
Several speakers addressed the gathering, stressing the need for action to protect those being held in detention facilities, to support immigrants seeking asylum and to vote. Doylestown Mayor Ron Strouse, told the gathering, “I wish we weren’t here … but our community’s values are at stake.” He noted that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents do not tell municipal officials if or when they will be in their communities.
“We feel violated, like we’re living in an authoritarian state,” said the mayor.
According to Immigrant Rights Action of Doylestown’s website, the group has documented 44 ICE actions and provided financial support for 38 legal cases in the area since 2017.
Marlene Pray, founder of the activist organization, Rise Up Doylestown, which helped organize the event, encouraged the crowd to “bring light to the darkness” of the administration’s policies.
Many of the speakers spoke of the immigration issue as one of human rights and decency.
“We don’t have to agree on immigration policy … but we can agree that dehumanization is wrong. We cannot say we didn’t know, we cannot say we didn’t see,” said the Rev. Kevin Jagoe of the BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.