On Friday, activists in Bakersfield will join those in hundreds of other cities across the world in a vigil intending to “shine a light” on the detention of immigrants from South America at the southern border of the United States.
About 700 Lights for Liberty events have been planned, with the national organizers saying they hope to spread awareness of the conditions at the detention centers that have been set up to process the influx of immigrants across the border, many of whom are seeking asylum.
“At Trump’s concentration camps, teen mothers and babies are held outdoors in ‘dog pounds,’” the organization wrote on its website. “We have witnessed the sick and elderly confined to ‘icebox’ rooms for weeks at a time. Unbelievably, children as young as 4 months are taken from their parents, medicine is confiscated, and medical care withheld, and LGBTQ and disabled individuals are held in solitary confinement.”
Dozens of Kern County residents are expected to attend the Bakersfield event, which will begin at the local office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Truxtun Avenue before moving to the Liberty Bell.
“We’re shining a light in dark spaces in our country, and from that we are hoping that there will be a momentum for change,” said Kimberly Kirchmer, executive director of the Women’s March Kern County, which is organizing the event. “By doing this, it will start the chain of change.”
The event is slated to start at 4:30 p.m. to accommodate people coming home from work. It is planned to end about 6 p.m., after several speakers make statements at the Liberty Bell.
While the national Lights for Liberty event will focus on detention centers outside Kern County, the Bakersfield event will also turn its attention to the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility, located at Golden State Avenue.
“We have detainees in there that are not criminals, that need to be processed and released,” Kirchmer said.
Approximately 400 detainees are held inside Mesa Verde, which is used by ICE to hold inmates who are either in the process of being deported or who have applied for asylum.
Activists have called for the closure of the facility in the past. It is unclear how the nationwide rallies will impact policy decisions.