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Vigil for Humanity Draws Hundreds Opposed to Family Separations 

click to enlarge Hundreds gathered in front of San Fernando Cathedral for the Vigil for Humanity to oppose the separating families seeking asylum. - MEGAN RODRIGUEZ
  • Megan Rodriguez
  • Hundreds gathered in front of San Fernando Cathedral for the Vigil for Humanity to oppose the separating families seeking asylum.

Over 200 people gathered Sunday at Main Plaza downtown to reflect on families who were separated while seeking asylum as a part of the zero-tolerance policy.

While President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 13 to reverse the policy, organizers went forward with the vigil to support the families who have not yet been reunited. The event focused on prayer and discussing ways to get involved through local organizations that offer resources for immigrants.

Organizer Rachel Jennings said the vigil helped people make connections about a wide range of issues concerning immigration such as mass incarceration, detention and asylum.

“We feel the executive order in some ways increases the harm because there is now this indefinite detention of families which might worsen the crisis that already exists,” Jennings said. “We couldn’t lose this opportunity to think about these refugees and asylum seekers and reflect on what we can do to help.”

The main organizer, Yon Hui Bell, said the event was a vigil as opposed to a protest or demonstration because it was intended as a time for reflection on the state of immigration policy.

“I feel that a piece of our humanity was lost with [the zero-tolerance] policy,” Bell said. “It is a vigil for all of us. It is a time to reflect on how we as a nation got to this point that we are tearing children out of their mothers' arms. I hope this event helps us reflect and strengthen our commitment to a shared and common humanity before we lose any more of it.”

Compassion San Antonio volunteer Ann Helmke said she thought the turnout was encouraging.

“We wanted it to be more in silence and reverence,” Helmke said. “The diversity and respect in the crowd give me hope. I felt there was a collective spirit of care and compassion.”

San Antonio resident Eduardo Magallanez said he was inspired to get involved because of his faith and concern about how refugees are treated.

“I hope this opens people’s minds and hearts to the idea that we have to treat refugees with respect at all times. There is an issue we have to address with immigration, but we do not address it by removing people’s dignity in the process. To separate children from their families is just cruel and inhumane.”

Thomas Davis, 31, is a San Antonio resident who heard about the vigil through social media and attended with his wife.

“It was nice to see a group of people gathered together for a common cause in a peaceful, prayerful way,” Davis said. “I think the fact that it was interfaith, multi-denominational is a really a powerful statement about San Antonio and who cares about this issue.”

While vigils, protests and demonstrations have been effective, Bell said people need to do more on a regular basis to make change possible.

“These events shouldn’t make people think they have done enough,” Bell said. “Vigils and demonstrations are where you go to be with community and to recharge and to motivate, but you have to continue to learn.”

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