SMETHPORT — Approximately 20 people attended the candlelight vigil Wednesday night at the McKean County Courthouse that was held in support of those immigrants from Mexico and several Central American countries who are now in the United States, especially in Texas.
According to the Kinzua Country Indivisible Group, organizers of the event, "This event was primarily a humanitarian response, rather than a political response to the events in Texas, and was open to anyone who has concern for the families involved."
Organizer Les Jordan Jr. invited the Rev. Rob Hernan, pastor of the United Methodist Church of Smethport, to offer opening remarks. Speaking about the immigrant families being separated at the border, Hernan referred to a verse in Matthew that tells about a stranger not being welcome and the Apostle James reference to caring for widows and orphans in distress.
Talking about the discrimination his Italian ancestors faced as immigrants generations ago, along with the Irish and Polish who were seeking asylum and escaping poverty and political tyranny and religious persecution, Jordan said “these people are humans and we must understand their needs."
Jordan also thanked the audience for attending the event and urged them to "step forward and be heard."
Susan Boser, a professor of human services and a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, who has a background in childhood development, was invited to speak about the effects on children after being separated from their families.
She said, "Upon arriving here tonight, I saw some friends and felt the warmth, unlike the feeling of the immigrant children who are ripped away from their families."
Being separated from their families at such an early age, Boser said, has biological, physical and emotional consequences. "Biologically, the absence of safety and comfort under stress leads to stress, which causes the body to release cortisol, which can lead later to heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. The effects can be far-reaching."