Fayette County

Worldwide vigil for border detainees coming to Lexington, several other Kentucky cities

Thousands worldwide will share in a moment of silence this Friday at 9 p.m. to honor those impacted by immigrant detention centers on the Southern border.

Several Kentuckians will be among those thousands. A moment of silence and vigil is planned for Friday, July 12, across six Kentucky cities: Danville, Florence, Frankfort, Louisville, Paris and Lexington.

In Lexington, the “Lights for Liberty” vigil will be held at the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse plaza at 8 p.m. The program, which is sponsored by the Bluegrass Activist Alliance, will include speakers and artists. Many will be students sharing their stories about immigration. At 9 p.m., the event will be rounded out by a moment of silence and vigil “as part of a national effort to shine a light” on conditions inside detention centers.

According to Edith Cruz, one of the event’s organizers, detained refugees are the heart of the event, but they are not the only ones impacted by the detention centers.

“It not only affects the children and families, it affects us as a nation,” Cruz said. “There are many community members who are directly impacted by this.”

Cruz said immigrants, as well as their allies, friends, mentors and supervisors, all feel the effects of border processing facilities.

But she added that the event is open to all who are willing to arrive with an open mind.

“It will be a very relaxed vigil — nothing too heavy on the social justice side, but still enough to remember those kids who have died at the border,” Cruz said, referring to children who have died while in custody of border patrol. “It’s welcome to everyone as long as everyone is respectful. This is the perfect time to learn how it impacts our people here in Kentucky and specifically Lexington.”

U.S. border processing facilities have been subject to intense media scrutiny for years. In 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report that found detainees within the facilities were “routinely denied their due process rights and frequently endure inhumane conditions in isolated facilities that have little oversight from the federal government.”

This week, CNN reported that President Donald Trump said reports of poor conditions in detention centers are largely sensationalized.

“(Processing facilities) are crowded because people come up, but now thanks to Mexico it’s slowing down greatly,” Trump said, according to CNN. “But it is crowded. But we want to have the press go in and see.”

Officials with the Trump administration also reported that a nationwide push to target immigrants in the U.S. illegally will take place this weekend in the days following the “Lights for Liberty” vigil. The operation will target individuals with final deportation orders.

On July 12, Kentuckians holding vigil will be joined by participants nationwide and in several other countries, including Senegal, Sweden and Germany. But the number of participants is not what matters at the end of the day, according to Cruz.

“I don’t think it’s about the numbers. We just hope to get the best results and our mission, our goal is to just bring light to the situation and to create a space where people can grieve and process.”