Vigil Held at Murrieta City Hall Advocates For Immigrant Rights

Salvador Reza of Phoenix talks about halting the speedy deportation of children. A vigil for r...

Salvador Reza of Phoenix talks about halting the speedy deportation of children.
A vigil for refugee children and their families was held Wednesday night, July 9, at Murrieta City Hall, where advocates called for proper treatment of immigrants crossing the border.

More than 200 supporters from near and far came out and gathered in the grassy area in front of City Hall to listen to various speakers talk about the current immigration issues. Event organizers, community members and politicians educated the crowd about immigrant rights and discussed how a 2008 law that would help them stay in the country might soon be overturned. They also collected donations for migrant women and children being detained in shelters nearby (below).

Murrieta has made national news in the last week because of protests by large crowds of people opposed to the arrival of undocumented immigrants from Texas at the Border Patrol station here. Buses headed to the Murrieta facility have turned away three times because of the crowd of protestors.

Advocates for the migrants said they were against fast-track deportation because it violates an immigrant's right to due process. One of the speakers, Dr. Jose Calderon, believes it's an immigrant's right to be able to apply as a refugee.

"We should allow refugees from the result of violence, wars and poverty to come to our country and apply for refugee status," he said. "President Obama wants to change that, so we're asking people to call the President and ask him to support relief for individuals crossing the border, not to change the law."

Calderon also said that at one point during the vigil he was pulled aside by a former protestor turned supporter who changed his mind after he learned about the other side of the issue.

Another speaker, Salvador Reza, came all the way from Phoenix to speak on behalf of the migrant children caught in the middle of what organizers called a "humanitarian issue."

"We cannot allow our government to classify our children as deportable," he said. "Children have no fault of whatever is going on at the border."

An event organizer, Benjamin Wood, translated a Baha'i prayer into Spanish for Barbara Matthews from the Inter-Faith Council (left). Others sang songs and showed their support for the movement with signs and chants.

Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, also made an appearance and commented on how peaceful the gathering was.

This is a great transition from what we've seen before," he said. "This shows that there's a lot of good people in the country who believe we should treat these children respectfully."

Event organizers, such as Wood and Fernando Romero, were happy with the turnout. Wood was worried about protestors potentially disrupting the vigil, but the very few who showed up remained on the sidelines.

"I think 50 percent of the people here were from Murrieta," said Romero, who is also a coordinator for the Justice For Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California. "The solidarity of the relief efforts here shows that Murrieta isn't like how people think it is."

The vigil attracted people from all different backgrounds and religions to call for peace, respect and compassion for the unaccompanied minors who crossed the border. The event ended with a song where supporters held hands and chanted "Si, se puede!" (Yes, it is possible).

Supporters of immigrants' rights made their feelings known with signs and banners. 

Participants sing and clap to a song performed at the end of the vigil.

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