About 60 people attended a “Lights for Liberty” protest Friday evening in front of The Dalles post Office in opposition to conditions faced by immigrants in detention facilities.
Similar protests were held last Friday, July 12, at hundreds of locations around the nation and world.
A few vehicles honked in support. Some protesters held signs and some held candles.
Kathy Cogswell of Rowena said she attended the protest in honor of her friend, retired RN Peggy Bowden, who is a volunteer working with immigrants on the southern border. Bowden has tended to immigrants with injuries and left water for them in the desert, Cogswell said.
“People have been trying to rescue these people and sometimes they face incarceration themselves for harboring criminals, it’s ridiculous,” Cogswell said.
Bill Lennox of The Dalles said, “We’re here because we want to be a voice of reason when it comes to what our immigration policy is on the boarder.”
“I believe there are many ways to address our issues without caging families and children and separating families,” Lennox said. “We can have a strong policy but it has to be a humane policy.”
Asked if he believed in open borders, he said, “No I do not believe in open borders. I believe every country has the right to secure their borders.”
He said with proper funding and an increase in capacity for the immigration system, “we can process everybody, screen them and look at them.”
He said that doesn’t mean letting in every person, but it means “at least listening to their stories.”
He said that means “not demonizing human beings. Nobody can fault anybody who wants to better themselves.”
The vigils were prompted by growing concerns about the treatment of immigrants in detention, with reports of severe overcrowding, illness and deaths, cold conditions, and no access to toothbrushes or soap.
Lennox believed the U.S. has allowed illegal immigration for labor reasons, because it is economically beneficial for a variety of industries, from agriculture to hospitality.
Katie Cook of Condon was an organizer of the protest. “I’m just feeling so hopeless and disturbed about what’s going on at the border,” she said.
“If we can fund major wars all over the world surely we can handle treating human beings with dignity and respect,” she said.
Bonnie New, a leader of Indivisible Columbia Gorge, an activist group, said, “My mind is occupied with thinking of children separated from their parents. This is so traumatic and the damage will last the rest of their lives. If it would stop today they would have trauma that’s scarring, and it’s not stopping today.”
“To do [separations] voluntarily to teach people not to come, it’s despicable,” New said.