Lights for Liberty protests immigrant detention centers

5 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — People from far and wide gathered together on Friday evening to protest the treatment of immigrants at detention centers all across U.S. borders. 

Lillie Lovado, owner of HardScrabble Solutions on Main Street, organized the meeting and invited participants to an open discussion about the challenges immigrants face when seeking refuge in the United States. 

On a Facebook post of the event, Lovado wrote, “We will gather … in a show of solidarity with others in the streets protesting the inhumane conditions imposed upon immigrants by the US government.” 

About a dozen participants met at the HardScrabble Solutions business downtown. One man came from Quebec to take part in the Lights for Liberty event.

 “I’m here because I’d like to support the kids,” he said. 

Lovado planned the event as part of a larger, nationwide vigil to refugees led by the Lights for Liberty organization. The national group scheduled vigils at dozens of locations all around the country, including one in Presque Isle, Orono, Portland, Skowhegan and Lewiston. 

Ruba Haddad, a Houlton resident and immigrant herself, spoke during the event not about the treatment of refugees, but the right to vote in the United States. “This is my first political gathering in my life,” she said. Haddad moved to Maine from Jordan four years ago and said that due to the monarchical government of Jordan, she’s never voted in a political election. 

Houlton resident Ruba Haddad talks about the value of voting. Haddad, who is from Jordan, moved to Maine four years ago. Staff Photo by Nina Mahaleris

“I never believed that my voice meant anything. I want everyone here to not take this for granted.” 

People discussed the need for change, although some brought up the history of detention centers in the country. “We’ve seen this before,” another visitor stated. Some guests shared personal experiences of witnessing mistreatment of immigrants from earlier generations. 

One woman said that while traveling across the country 35 years ago, her bus stopped in El Paso, Texas, where officers climbed aboard and asked every person if they were an American citizen. 

The group not only talked about the detention centers and treatment of refugees in the United States, but also general feelings toward immigrants altogether. Many people said they believed that people around the nation have a fear of immigrants, which can lead to misunderstanding and hostility. Participants also discussed local improvements that could be made to help immigrants feel more welcomed in Aroostook County. 

“What’s to fear? We are all human,” one participant said during the evening. 

By 8:30 p.m., participants took to the downtown streets to show their support. Some turned on their smartphone flashlights to light the way as they walked together singing, “This Land is Your Land,” in unison.