City Desk

Montanans join rallies to protest border detention conditions

Big Sky Connection

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Eric Tegethoff

July 15, 2019

HELENA, Montana - Protests against conditions in detention centers at the U.S./Mexico border take place in Montana and across the nation today. 

A steady stream of details from the border is mobilizing people to call for immigrant detention centers to be shut down in 
"Lights for Liberty" vigils. In June, a team of doctors and lawyers visited these facilities and reported such conditions as the lack of access to basic hygiene and nutrition. 

Montana Human Rights Network co-director Rachel Carroll Rivas says her group has been receiving calls from folks who are upset and outraged, and have decided it's time to stand up for immigrants' rights.

"The imagery is just too shocking," says Rivas. "The stories are just too shocking. And people can't really just turn a blind eye to what we're hearing about the conditions in these immigration detention centers."

Vigils are scheduled in more than 600 cities, 
including seven in Montana. There are events in the Treasure State's big cities - like Billings, Helena and Missoula - as well as the smaller communities of Kalispell and Thompson Falls. 

Lights for Liberty organizers describe their goal as to "end concentration camps," a controversial term Vice President Mike Pence and others believe is too extreme.

Carroll Rivas notes Congress could take action on these border facilities by focusing on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement budget.

"Montana is a strong place with a history of really powerful elected officials, in Congress and in our Senate," says Rivas. "And we have folks who really control the purse strings of this ICE machine - a very new agency that has a very bloated budget and is using it in very inhumane ways."

More than 52,000 immigrants were in federal custody as of May, and at least six children have died in custody, or shortly after their release, since September.


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