On Friday, July 12, over 300 people attended a vigil at the corners of El Camino Real and Castro Street in Mountain View to protest the shocking and inhumane treatment of asylum-seeking immigrants at the U.S. border. The demonstration, organized by a coalition called Lights for Liberty, was among more than 700 planned in cities around the world.
Over the weekend, footage from Vice President Mike Pence's visit to two migrant detention centers in Texas July 12 -- showing Pence staring down his nose at immigrant men in overcrowded cages, some of whom shouted that they "had been there for more than 40 days, were hungry and could not brush their teeth," according to the New York Times -- went viral. Pence later downplayed the conditions he saw at the centers, even referring to Border Patrol agents as "compassionate," according to the Times. His visit came 10 days after the Department of Homeland Security's independent watchdog arm published a report detailing overcrowded and unsanitary conditions at border detention centers, including standing-room-only cells, children without hot meals and showers, and migrants pressing notes up to windows begging for help. More than a dozen adult detainees have died while in custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement since the beginning of last year, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and children have died as well.
The weekend was capped off by a string of racist tweets from President Donald Trump on Sunday morning saying U.S. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna S. Pressley should 'go back' to the countries they came from (three of the four were born in the United States). It also was expected to see planned ICE raids targeting noncitizens in cities across the country, though no raids reportedly occurred in the Bay Area on Sunday.
No matter your views on immigration, we should all be horrified by the mistreatment of immigrants perpetrated by ICE and the Border Patrol, and at the unabashedly racist rhetoric from our commander-in-chief. Many of us are from families that came to this country seeking life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, many of whom fled situations similar to those that have recently prompted immigrants to seek asylum. Many of us have friends or relatives that suffered in Japanese internment camps or Nazi concentration camps. To see history repeating itself, with immigrants legally seeking asylum being deprived of basic human rights at the hands of our government, is appalling and frightening.
While it was powerful to see so many people come together July 12 to speak out against the inhumane treatment of migrants at the border, we need to continue to do our part to combat the mistreatment of immigrants in our country. If you see something, say something. Speak out if you encounter someone hurling racist remarks. Report ICE activity in Santa Clara County to the rapid response network at (408) 290-1144, or learn how to get involved with the network. Do what you can to shine a little light in these dark times.