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O'Rourke Joins N.H. Protest of How The U.S. Is Treating Immigrants, Asylum Seekers

Jordyn Haime / NHPR
Beto O'Rourke speaks about the need for comprehensive immigration reform while campaigning July 12 in Peterborough, N.H.

Presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke decried the treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers at the U.S. border while campaigning Friday night in Peterborough.

O’Rourke spoke at one of many “Lights for Liberty” vigils held across the state and the country. The vigils were part of a nationwide campaign to protest reported conditions at immigrant detention centers.

More than 100 people gathered at the town house steps to sing, chant, and march. 

“Close detention camps,” gatherers sang.

O’Rourke told the crowd at Putnam Park what he saw when he visited the Homestead detention center, a temporary shelter in Florida for unaccompanied children, many of whom were separated from their families.

"Our government, not providing toothbrushes or toothpaste or soap or a change of clothes for kids who sleep in their filth and the filth of other kids every single night in the wealthiest, the most powerful country on the face of the planet, and in the whole of human history,” he said.


Credit Jordyn Haime / NHPR
Speakers during the "Lights for Liberty" rally in Peterborough, N.H. on July 12, 2019.

O’Rourke was the only candidate among many others in the state this weekend – including Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden on Friday – who attended one of the Lights for Liberty vigils. Organizers in Portsmouth said they aimed for the message at their event to be non-political.

In Peterborough, rally attendees NHPR spoke with all said they hadn’t decided yet whether they preferred any of the Democratic candidates.

Emma Shapiro-Weiss, 27, is a volunteer with environmental organizing group 350NH. She said a candidate with a serious environmental policy is most important to her.

“I really want a candidate that is progressive on all issues because ultimately those issues affect climate. If we don’t acknowledge the immigration problems that we’re having right now, we won’t be able to solve the climate crisis,” she said as she marched from the town house steps to Putnam Park. 


Credit Jordyn Haime / NHPR

Eva Castillo, an immigrant advocate originally from Venezuela, said she thought O’Rourke had a “pretty decent” immigration policy. She remains skeptical about what could happen once a candidate steps into office.

“I don’t want a repeat of what happened under the Obama administration,” she said. "He made a promise and then he threw us under the bus.”

O’Rourke is hosting another immigration-focused town hall event at theNashua Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday as part of his weekend-long tour of the state.

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