Constitution Park was host to love and acceptance Friday evening as people gathered for the Helena Vigil to End Human Detention Camps to hear stories of immigration and sing.
Stories of coming to America were shared by those who came from Cuba, Liberia, Canada and those who grew up hearing family stories about surviving the Holocaust and growing up Native American in an unwelcoming society.
The event was organized by the Montana Human Rights Network. Network Co-Director Rachel Carroll Rivas welcomed the nearly 100 people who came out and said the situation at the detention camps near the Mexico border are about dehumanization. She urged people to shine a light for every person who has left their home in search of humanity and safety.
Maddie Collins, whose husband is Mayor Wilmot Collins, shared her story about coming to Helena as a refugee from Liberia. She spoke of the fear she experienced and said the sound of fireworks today still take her back to the unrest of her hometown.
“We as humans can connect and help each other," Maddie said. “We don’t close each other out. You never know when your door is going to be faced with problems. … You never know where you’re going to go, going to run, what doors will open.”
Magalie Bélanger, originally of Montréal, Quebec, said what is happening today is nothing like what she went through to come across the border. While stressful, it only took a bit of paperwork for her.
“This is not about immigration,” Bélanger said. “This is about racism.”
It was a bit more difficult for Adonis Zamora Garzón and his wife Maie Lee Jones. Originally from Cuba, they were seeking a better place to raise a family. They moved around from Panama to the Cayman Islands and to British Columbia. In B.C., they discovered they couldn’t stay in Canada because it wasn’t possible to get a job with a tourist visa. They crossed the border to Eureka with only two bags – one filled with diapers and the other some clothing.
Their story ended happily with finding love and acceptance in Helena.
“We welcome everybody,” Garzón said. “Knock on our door and say, ‘we are here.’
“It’s not about race, it’s not about politics,” Garzón said. “It’s about love. It’s about humans and helping people.”
Jones echoed that sentiment and reminded people, “Immigrants are humans. We need to love each other, we need to help each other.