WASHINGTON — Hundreds gathered outside of the White House Friday as part of the international Lights for Liberty vigils in response to President Trump's policies on immigration.
Led by the executive director for Washington D.C.'s CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, the crowd chanted "Are we going to fight back? Yes!"
Upwards of 700 cities around the world joined in the protests against what the founding group calls "the inhumane condition of migrants."
24-year-old undocumented immigrant, Gerson Quinteros said he knows those conditions all too well. He said he started his life in America 15 years ago in an ICE holding cell.
"I immigrated here when I was nine years old after my grandmother had died and was coming here to reunite with my mom," said Quinteros. "Once I crossed the river, the border, I was detained by immigration. I was put in a white van and taken to the facility, and there I remember it being really cold and just seeing the cement bench in it and having a tiny little wall which was the bathroom behind it and being asked a lot of questions, and I was so scared.”
Another undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, Jorge Benitez-Perez cheered him on from the crowd, as he thought about his own family's scrape with ICE.
He said a local police officer turned over his mom to ICE in 2018.
“I was obviously scared, thinking she’d be deported, because she had that civil violation, because it was up to that ICE agent whatever he wanted to do," said Benitez-Perez.
He said CASA helped his mom get a stay of removal until a judge decides if she will be deported in September.
For years, CASA has helped educate the immigrant community on their rights and said that recently the group has been working with local law enforcement to make sure they don't help ICE.
“I feel, like, scared every day. I don’t know what to do, but I know with my community I’m in strength," said Quinteros. "I feel safe with my community. I feel protected by my community, like this."
Multiple law enforcement agencies, including DC Police have said they will NOT be assisting ICE.
Arlington County Police issued the following statement Friday: The role of Arlington County law enforcement is to keep our community safe, not to enforce federal immigration laws.
You can find more information about the department's policy here.
Marriott hotels and Choice Hotels International also said their chains would not assist ICE.
Marriott: “Marriott International has had no indication that any of our hotels have been contacted by the U.S. government to be used to detain individuals. Our hotels are not configured to be detention facilities, but to be open to guests and community members as well. While we have no particular insights into whether the U.S. government is considering the use of hotels to aid in the situation at the border, Marriott has made the decision to decline any requests to use our hotels as detention facilities.”
Choice: "We are not aware that any of our franchised hotels, all of which are independently owned and operated, are being asked to serve as detention facilities. We do not believe hotels should be used in this way and will decline any requests to do so. We ask that our franchised hotels only be used for their intended purpose, which is to provide travelers with a welcoming hotel room."
The following hotlines are available to provide assistance to immigrants:
CASA: 1-866-678-2272 (24 hours/day; 24 hors/dia)
Sanctuary DMV: 202-335-1183 (7 days/week - 7 dias/semana, 9am-9pm)
United We Dream: 1-844-363-1423 (Monday-Friday/lunes-viernes, 6am-9pm)
CAIR Coalition: 202-331-3329 (Monday-Friday/lunes-viernes, 9am-5pm)