Hundreds of people crowded the Texas Capitol on the Fourth of July to protest the detention of migrants at border camps.
Local activists and self-described “angry moms,” Crystal Bird Caviel and Randi Hensley, organized the protest after reports released earlier this week detailed unsanitary conditions at the camps and described the overcrowded facilities as "dangerous.” Smaller protests, organized by MoveOn, were held Tuesday in downtown Austin.
Caviel addressed the crowd about the importance of showing up on a day like Independence Day.
“We felt that it would be vulgar to carry on as if we didn’t have people unjustly locked up in cages at the border,” said Caviel, who likened the detention centers to “concentration camps,” echoing the words of New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“This administration will have you believe that families escaping nightmarish conditions who are willing to risk every obstacle and every brutality, with their children on their backs, are coming to take something from you,” she said. “But we categorically reject and refuse this incendiary, insidious language from a bigoted tyrant.”
Telma Lopez, who is originally from Guatemala, shared the stage with immigrant organizer, Sulma Franco, and three other immigrants who had been detained at border camps. Lopez said she spent eight months at the Hutto Detention Center after escaping persecution based on her gender identity. She said her treatment at the center was “humiliating and discriminatory.”
“I think there are lots of things that happen within detention centers that people who are not in them don’t know about,” Lopez said in her native Spanish. “For an immigrant, you don’t have human rights. The rules are set by the detention center.”
Brothers Estuardo and Giovani, who were also on stage, held a sign reading, “Reunite families! Shut down Hutto!” The teenagers came to the U.S. from Guatemala with their families two and a half months ago.
“Sometimes, being an immigrant, you face lots of discrimination. People don’t want to give us our rights because we’re from another country and because of the color of our skin,” Estuardo, the older of the two, said. “I’m happy because I see people who are standing with us as immigrants today.”
Before marching to Gov. Greg Abbott’s mansion, protesters honored the seven migrant children who have died in U.S. custody since December, singing “This Little Light of Mine” while placing flowers in front of their photographs.