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Candlelight vigil draws attention to supporting immigrants

Around 25 local residents gathered together for a candlelight vigil to support immigrants Monday night. From left are: Jean Ritzinger, Barb de Souza, Pat Caponi and Nancy Parlin. 1 / 3
Steven Anderson (left) holds a sign while Bill Montgomery (center) and Vicki Cobian hold candles at a candlelight vigil held Monday night in River Falls. The vigil was in support of immigrants and the River Falls community, and in recognition of several immigration-related issues. Gretta Stark / RiverTown Multimedia.2 / 3
Cindy Gottschalk (left), Vicki Cobian (center), and Beth Shockey-Woll hold signs and candles at the intersection of Main Street and Cascade Avenue. They were some of around 25 people to gather together for a candlelight vigil Monday night. 3 / 3

It was a chilly group bundled in winter gear that gathered on the corner of Main Street and Cascade Avenue with lit candles Monday evening, Nov. 26.

With lows dropping into the teens and a biting breeze, it was a little hard to keep candles lit, said town of River Falls resident Jackie Brux, who organized the candlelight vigil held in support of immigrants.

Though some candles struggled, the determination of those holding the candles held strong, Brux said.

Brux described River Falls as a "generous and tolerant community" that celebrates diversity and supports those in need. The vigil, she said, was held to support the community for all it does for others and to support local immigrants, as well as immigrants in other areas.

Krista Spieler said she'd come to the vigil "to be part of this community, and showing support for immigrants," she said. "And just declare that immigrants are welcome here. We all have immigration as part of our history and it horrifies me that we're living in a time when immigrants are vilified."

The vigil came not long after news broke nationally about tear gas being used at the U.S. - Mexican border, including a photo of a mother and her children running from tear gas, which has sparked much controversy across national news media.

"We have churches, we have organizations, we have lots of people that say we should look out for the downtrodden," said Steven Anderson, one of those at the vigil. "We need to help the poor ... and we have an issue right in front of our faces that we're allowing to happen. So whether this works or not, I don't know. But it's something. And we all need to do something."

No matter how cold and miserable it was standing outside in River Falls, said Bill Montgomery, it was nothing compared to the suffering by "people who are refugees, people who have been forced out of their homes, people who are being persecuted," he said.

"People just long for a little bit of hope in life," Montgomery said. "And so that's what I hope for them. And we're just talking about what can we do thousands of miles away. We can come out and say we live on one globe, this is our home. We're all human beings, we all deserve respect and support and love and care."

Montgomery said he wished everyone shared that attitude.

"I wish our government had the same attitude, same approach of care for all people, especially people in desperate need," Montgomery said. "Parts of our government seem to care. Other parts, some of the leadership, does not seem to care."

Brux said the vigil also was to show concern for other immigration issues such as:

• President Donald Trump refusing to place more judicial facilities and immigration judges at the Mexico border

• Hundreds of immigrant children have not yet been reunited with their parents

• Trump's opposition on immigration from Haiti and African countries

• The reduction of the numbers of refugees to the lowest levels since the Refugee Act was created in 1980, Brux said.

• Trump's promise to remove temporary protected status from immigrants fleeing conflicts or natural disasters, continued opposition to DACA (deferred action on childhood arrivals), and his wish to eliminate "birth" citizenship which would mean those born in the U.S. would not be automatically granted citizenship.

Brux and others at the vigil handed out a sheet to those who walked by, with the above issues described.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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