Protests in Memphis and across the country are calling for immigration reform

Memphis Lights for Liberty

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Friday’s event was part of a nation-wide movement to close the immigrant detention centers and protesters in Memphis were given an extra reason to demonstrate after a local journalist was released from ICE custody Thursday. It’s a case that has received national attention.

“The message is, we need to close the camps,” Regina Clarke, member of the Poor People’s Campaign said.

An estimated 100 hundred people joined a national day of protest, a vigil event called “Lights for Liberty” organized by the Poor People’s Campaign to protest the conditions at immigration detention facilities.

“Vigils like this one are happening across the country,” Maricio Calvo with Latino Memphis said.

“What we’re here to do is bring light to what’s happening in our detention centers, so that our communities know what’s happening in our own backyard,” Clarke said.

One man who was not present was the center of attention for speakers in front of the Memphis Immigration Court.

“Duran, hang in there! The community is behind you,” one speaker said.

On Thursday, Memphis journalist Manuel Duran was released from a detention center in Gaston, Alabama. Duran’s fiancé spoke on his behalf.

“He finally had a good night sleep, the first good night sleep in a very long time,” Melissa Valdez said.

Duran has been released on a $2,000 bond after spending 465 days in 4 different immigration detention centers. Duran was arrested in April 2018 while covering a protest and is a Salvadoran immigrant.

Duran’s fiancé described horrific conditions Duran experienced in the detention centers.

“Etowah is infected with roaches,” Valdez said. “So much so that Manuel had to roll up a towel and put it on the door so the roaches would keep from coming into his room.”

While the organizers of Friday’s event say Duran’s release is a victory, the fight for rights for immigrants, they say, is not over.

“It’s a reason to celebrate, and we’re super excited about that but we have to think that there are so many people that are being detained or are one step from being detained,” Calvo said.

Holding candles and surrounding a symbolic detention center, these people are calling for all the immigration centers to be closed and for all immigrants, like Duran, to be released from custody.

Duran’s case for asylum has been re-opened. Because the immigration system is so backlogged, Duran is expected to have another hearing in about a year.

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