York County residents join nationwide protest against ICE detention camps
York County residents and members from a regional pro-immigrant advocacy organization descended on York County Prison on Friday night to join activists in cities throughout the U.S. to protest U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention camps.
Roughly 70 protesters circled around speakers who condemned the treatment of migrants in front of the prison that houses one of the Northeast's largest ICE-authorized detention facilities with its 800-immigrant capacity.
The CASA-sponsored demonstration was part of the nationwide "Lights for Liberty" movement to protest the detention camps on the southern border that have been reported to be overcrowded and unsanitary — especially the conditions for children.
"Even though we live in constant fear, we still work our hardest, providing so much for our country," said Arlette Morales, a Mexican immigrant who came to the U.S. at 2 years old. "This country deserves us. We deserve to be here. ... There is still hope. We will not forget about you. We will keep fighting for you until these chains are broken and you are free."
ICE is expected to round up thousands of undocumented immigrants — many of whom are fleeing violence and unrest in their home countries — on Sunday. President Donald Trump has said the administration is targeting criminals, Politico reported Thursday.
Major cities, including Baltimore, have been said to be targets.
Demonstrators noted York's facility isn't plagued by the same conditions as tent cities and similar camps along the southern border, but they emphasized they still wanted to be a part of the movement.
Many demonstrators —Latino, African American and white — were holding signs that said "never again," "don't look away" and "keep families together."
Carla Christopher, a faith-based activist in York, recalled visiting Arizona, where the group No More Deaths stashes supplies for migrants crossing the border. Just last month, federal prosecutors dropped charges against Scott Warren, one of the group's volunteers, after jurors couldn't conclude whether it was a crime to leave jugs of water in the desert.
"When I think about the risks these people are taking, the pain that they suffer, all I can think of is that no human deserves to have to make that choice," Christopher said. "My children's lives, my own safety, knowing what's on the other end for me. Or the certain death that lies at home. Because if you had any other option, would you cross that desert? I hope not."
Immigrants in the crowd who work with CASA spoke about their own experiences coming into the country and facing a similar journey as those who are living — and dying — at the southern border.
Ariel Arrieta, 18, spoke of his mother, who made that journey decades ago from Mexico. He also spoke of the privilege he has as someone who was born on U.S. soil, giving him an opportunity to live without experiencing such harsh conditions.
Guadalupe Rosete, his mother, promptly stepped up to the microphone after her son had spoken, detailing the empathy she has for the migrants who are hoping to complete the same journey she did.
"You have to be thankful to be in America for all the opportunities that each person has," Rosete said. "But some people don't have (that opportunity) and they have to risk their life to cross the border. ... Each one of the those people has a dream."
Congressional Democrats, presidential candidates and organizations such as CASA have criticized President Donald Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric and policies, and they recently have been informing undocumented immigrants of their rights if confronted by ICE.
The president and his supporters have argued that the crackdowns are key to protecting American jobs and keeping criminals off the streets.
Local immigrants and lawyers last month had also been preparing for nationwide raids that Trump said would target millions. ICE officials had said they doubted they had the resources for such a sweep.
Soon after, the president delayed the raids to allegedly give Democrats the chance to work with Republicans on border security negotiations.
York County is negotiating a new contract with ICE that is expected to be finished by the end of the year. Officials have declined to comment on facility-related matters until then.
An ICE official told The York Dispatch last month — while there were just 13 open beds at the facility — that if it reaches max capacity, "ICE has facilities nationwide that can accommodate detainees."
Earlier this month, presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., proposed ending contracts between ICE and local jails or private detention centers.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.