On Friday July 12th, 2019, Lights for Liberty, along with organizers worldwide, brought hundreds of thousands of people to 818 locations including detention facilities across the country, into the streets and into their own front yards, to protest the inhumane conditions faced by migrants.
In Austin, local efforts were focused on gathering at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in nearby Taylor, Texas. This is the same location of the large protest vigil led by the Most Rev. Michael Curry during General Convention in 2018.
Several members of the Seminary of the Southwest community, in solidarity with others from Christian traditions, attended the protest. Accompanying the group of current seminarians were seminary faculty member Dr. Jennifer Owens-Jofré, trustee the Rev. Alex Montes, and alumna the Rev. Terry Pierce, Vicar at St. James’ Episcopal Church, in Taylor. Pierce was instrumental is organizing the gathering during General Convention.
Owens-Jofré, the newly appointed Director of Latino/Hispanic Studies at Southwest, wrote in Commonweal that, “Speeches began, and every speaker exhorted us to protest the conditions in places like Hutto where detainees are held. They urged the crowd to hold elected officials to account for the atrocities being committed—crimes that we as citizens tacitly approve by doing nothing to stop them. Ministers from Christian traditions—Episcopal priests, a Unitarian Universalist minister—called us to active solidarity with our neighbors, with humanity, with our brothers, sisters, and siblings in Christ.”
According to Grassroots Leadership, which is an Austin-based activist organization, the T. Don Hutto Detention Center is the country’s only all-women detention center and currently houses about 500 Central American asylum seekers.