We came together in the middle of an overgrown baseball field, forming an unwieldy circle as the sun began to set. A diverse group: people of all hues and ages, a handful of children clutching balloons, young white women dressed in black but for the white of their clerical collars. My seminarians and I smiled at the familiar faces, exchanged greetings, chatted over the clang of boxcars rolling down the tracks alongside the weeded field. All around the country, similar gatherings were being held, all part of the July 12 Lights for Liberty demonstrations demanding an end to the mass detention of migrants.
Over a makeshift sound system came a song by the Peace Poets: “Oye, mi gente, traemos la fuerza,” we sang. “La libertad es la única bandera.” We chanted in English: “Rise up, my people, my condor, my eagle / No human being will ever be illegal.” Our singing grew louder as the sun sank in the sky. I could see lights beginning to brighten in the windows of the nondescript building on the other side of the fence. The T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, houses migrant women who’ve fled their countries, often on foot, and who are seeking asylum in the United States. The facility is run by Core Civic, a private prison company contracted by the United States government—thus funded in part by American taxpayers—that has come under scrutiny for a litany of abuses, including the mistreatment of inmates and failing to provide adequate healthcare.