By Tovin Lapin, Fortune, July 11, 2019.
Galvanized by the steady stream of disturbing details spilling out of U.S. immigrant detention centers, protests of inhumane conditions at the facilities are expanding. Now, a plan for a rally and vigil on Friday, July 12, has drawn widespread support, with more than 600 demonstrations planned on five continents.
Lights for Liberty is helping organize vigils across the country with the goal of ending immigrant detention, and the coalition has struck upon a moment of mounting attention and action.
In June, lawyers and doctors toured facilities along the southern border holding migrant children, whose treatment is governed by the Flores Agreement. The result of a 1997 lawsuit, Flores established standards of care for minors. Appalled at what they discovered, including lack of basic nutrition and hygiene, the attorneys said they witnessed “flagrant and persistent” violations of the law and asked a judge to order immediate inspections.
One of the lawyers on the tour was Toby Gialluca, and she was determined to spread the word. She called her friend and colleague, Elizabeth McLaughlin, an activist and attorney who also has a broad social media following.
“We spoke for about an hour and it was really upsetting,” McLaughlin said. “She saw babies that were listeless and unresponsive. She saw teenage mothers who had gotten no medical attention, and a preemie baby born in Mexico who had not been given any medical attention and was in a dirty onesie.”
McLaughlin shared Gialluca’s accounts on Twitter, quickly garnering more than 55,000 retweets and linking with other immigrant rights organizations. Eager to parlay the momentum into something more substantial, they came up with Lights for Liberty.
It started with five core events, in New York City, Washington, D.C., San Diego, El Paso, Texas, and Homestead, Fla. After three weeks of organizing, 608 local events in more than two dozen countries have joined the network. The first Women’s March in 2017 had 680 worldwide events, McLaughlin said, and Lights for Liberty hopes to exceed that figure by Friday.