In an�immigration office�parking lot�off West 73rd Street, more than 200 people gathered Friday night to protest treatment of undocumented immigrants at the Mexican�border.
Activists, religious leaders and families came together for a "Lights for Liberty" vigil. The crowd�stood for nearly two hours, calling upon elected representatives to enact immigration reforms and�end�detainment facilities at the border.
The event was one of nearly 800�happening around the world Friday, including nine others�in Indiana. The vigils, hosted by a national group also called Lights for Liberty, were held at churches, town parks and community centers, according to the group's website.
In an office park down the road from the protest sat a nondescript�U.S. Immigration and�Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility. Chris Smallridge, one of the Indianapolis event's organizers, said that's�why protesters were called to gather in this spot.��
"We have many questions about this detention center in Indiana," Smallridge�said. "People here and at the border need our help."
Dozens of signs dotted the crowd with messages such as: "Families belong together," "No detention camps for children;" and "Justice for asylum seekers." Supportive honks from passing cars prompted waves and cheers from the crowd.
A few passers-by also expressed opposition, including one man�who drove by, yelling out what was written on his makeshift cardboard sign:�"Trump 2020! Trump 2020!"
'The crisis is real': Pence sees 'tough stuff' and 'compassionate work' at Texas border facilities
Three Indianapolis police officers were also�at the vigil, ensuring that everyone remained on a grassy strip of public property at the street corner along Zionsville Road.
Malkah�Bird, with Jewish Voice�for Peace, was one of nearly a dozen speakers who addressed the crowd. Comparing conditions at the border to concentration camps during World War II, she said standing by��and not taking action��is "increasingly harmful."
"After the Holocaust, Jews said never again," Bird said. "Never again is now. Never again means close the camps."
Food desert issue: Hogsett's plan to combat food insecurity hits a few hurdles
The American treatment of immigrants is not what it used to be, added�Nick Dunlap, secretary of the Indiana Stonewall Democrats. "Instead of being met with open arms," he said, "children, families are being met with hatred� they're dying."
"We call on our elected leaders to close the camps," Dunlap�continued. "If they don't like that ... we'll vote them out."
Vanessa L�pez Aguilera, an Indianapolis attorney who works with the American Civil Liberties Union, said at the event that families at risk of deportation should have a plan ready. That means making plans for children to be cared for, should their parents be detained or deported.
"There are ways to�help and support ... those at risk of deportation," she said. "We are a voice for the voiceless."
Protesters also called upon Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Sheriff�Kerry Forestal to not cooperate with ICE.
Detainment�at the border has received increasing attention nationally from both the public and government leaders. Friday, Vice President Mike Pence toured a Border Patrol facility in Texas after reports that migrants detained are being held in dangerous conditions.
In the visit, Pence said every family he�spoke with told him "they were being well cared for." After touring a different and more crowded�facility later in the day, though,�the vice president said it was�"tough stuff."
I was not surprised by what I saw, he said. I knew wed see a system that was overwhelmed.�
Pence's visit came a month after�the�inspector general�visited five facilities in June, prompting the release of a�report�describing dangerously overcrowded conditions.
The end of the vigil was marked with candle-lightnings and the�reading of the names of migrants who have died in U.S. custody or during interactions with law enforcement or border control agents. Shay Ramirez, a 19-year-old from Indianapolis, said "those names, and the need for the list to stop," is why she was there.
"Our voices are being heard and we're making it clear that what's happening at the border is not acceptable," Ramirez said. "But this is just the beginning. ... We're not going to stay silent anymore."
Call IndyStar reporter Casey Smith�at 317-444-6176�or email her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SmithCaseyA.