National Movement to Support Immigrants Takes Over Hinds Plaza in Princeton
Princeton, NJ – More than four hundred protesters rallied against the treatment of immigrants at a major rally and candlelight vigil at Hinds plaza in Princeton on Friday night. Lights for Liberty: A Nationwide Vigil to End Human Detention Camps held events on five continents and in nearly 600 locations worldwide. At the Princeton event, a diverse group of speakers denounced U.S. immigration policy and its impact on communities throughout Mercer county and New Jersey.
Between 7 and 8 pm for local organizations including Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF), YWCA, Princeton Human Services, RISE, Solidaridad and Faith in New Jersey shared information and resources about grassroots activities to support immigrants. A series of graphic posters created by Princeton students showing real stories of immigrants who are in New Jersey were on display. At 8 pm a series of speakers took the stage speaking to different aspects of the immigrant experience and how they’ve been working to support the immigrant community. At 9 pm participants lit candles in a silent vigil for all those held in US detention camps.
While speakers highlighted the immediate situation at the border and in detention centers such as clams getting worldwide attention, others noted systemic issues with immigration policy that are impacting local communities. “The immigration legal system is collapsing under its own weight with a backlog of over 1 million cases, said Maria Juega, co-founder of LALDEF. “There is just no way that the new arrivals can be processed in an orderly way, and given a semblance of due process.” Current LALDEF Chair Patricia Fernandez-Kelly spoke about how LALDEF is providing badly legal defense resources to immigrant families.
Some of the most powerful moments were personal stories from former immigrants living in Mercer county. Recent Rowan University graduate Edwin Benavides talked of the need for empathy across party lines: “I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican or whatever if you see kids crying in cages that should not be okay.”
“Our community lives in fear,” said Dreamer Valeria Posso. “Fear to use public transportation, to go to school, to buy groceries. How are we able to make a change and speak out on the injustices if we are scared? We need your support. Dreaming is not illegal or a crime.”
Veronica Olivares-Weber of the Princeton Human Services Commission noted the positive impact immigrants have had in our community. “Immigrants, documented or undocumented, come to this county not asking what it can do for them, but rather what they can do for this country,” said Olivares-Weber. “They want to be productive members of society, they want to contribute to make their communities better, they want to work hard, they pay taxes, and obey the laws simply because they want to live a peaceful life and be happy.”
Speakers highlighted specific action items that individuals can take to get more involved including financial support for immigrants’ rights groups, volunteering, and supporting political candidates who emphasize fairness for immigrant communities. Other speakers included Princeton councilwoman Leticia Fraga, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, Robert Seda-Schreiber of the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice and Pastor Alexis Fuller-Wright from Christ Congregation in Princeton.
Rally organizers Laura Zurfluh and Kristina Corvin said the community response exceeded expectations and reflects a rising tide of dissatisfaction with current policies. “The overwhelming turnout tonight speaks to the level of outrage in our community about the inhumane treatment of immigrants at the border, and concern about the anticipated ICE raids scheduled to start in communities throughout the country on Sunday,” said Zurfluh. “We see this as going beyond one event, and hope the passion and energy on display tonight will be channeled into future actions to stop policies that are harming people, particularly children.”
About Lights for Liberty: Lights for Liberty is a loose coalition of grassroots activists, with support from long-standing immigrants’ rights organizations and other organizers.
Read more about Lights4Liberty here: https://www.lightsforliberty.org/