More than four dozen protesters gathered outside the Border Patrol’s headquarters in Yuma on Friday night as part of a series of vigils nationwide called “Lights for Liberty.”
According to Lights for Liberty’s website, the vigils were meant as a protest of the reported inhumane treatment of migrants who are in Border Patrol custody.
“What’s happening in facilities like the one behind us right now is not America at its best,” said Arizona Democratic Party Vice Chairman Bryan Rasmussen in a speech during the vigil. “It’s not us as America, period. It’s the consequence of an election that unfortunately did not go the way it should have gone.”
Rasmussen made clear during his speech that the vigil was not meant to be an indictment of Border Patrol agents. And in addition to dedicating the vigil to those migrants who have died while in custody, he also took a moment to remind people that there is a high suicide rate among those who work with the Border Patrol.
“(It’s) likely because of the psychological damage from being forced to implement the kinds of policies that they’ve been (implementing), especially under this administration,” Rasmussen said. “So we’re here to remember that this is not a one-sided issue.”
Jason Bradley, a candidate for Yuma City Council, was also at the vigil Friday, and got up to speak, as well.
“I am not here as a City Council candidate today,” Bradley said. “I am here today as a nurse, as an educator, as a patriot (and) as a concerned citizen of the United States of America.
“In my view the atrocity that is being perpetrated on our society is unacceptable.”
Those in attendance listened to a number of speakers, sang songs and chanted slogans such as “kids in cages no way, no how; get it together and let them out.”
A number of people from the crowd also took the microphone to speak, including Lisa Jahn, who said that her father came to the United States from Mexico.
She urged people to take action, saying that “if we don’t do something, then we’re just part of the problem.”
“If we don’t do whatever we can do, (in) whatever capacity you can do, we’re just saying it’s OK to be like this,” she said. “(That) it’s OK to put kids in cages away from their families.”
This vigil comes just a few days after allegations of sexual assault and abuse were leveled against Yuma Border Patrol agents in an NBC News report.
A statement from Customs and Border Protection in response to those allegations stated that the agency takes “all allegations seriously and investigates all formal complaints.”
“The allegations do not align with common practice at our facilities and will be fully investigated,” it read. “It’s important to note that the allegation of sexual assault is already under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.”