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To the Editor:

On Saturday, June 30, about 300 Ellensburg and Kittitas County neighbors stood vigil at the Rotary Pavilion downtown to express their dismay at the separation of immigrant children from their parents at our southern border. The tone was emotional as the focus was on family separation and trauma, not on immigration policy overall. Standing there, I thought of Ellensburg neighbors not at the vigil, though few I hope would condone taking children from their parents and locking them up.

However, this action towards children cannot be separated from our immigration policy which has at its core the criminalization and detention of asylum seekers and refugees. We condone these policies, not because we are hardhearted, but because we believe what our high administration officials tell us. We are told we are experiencing a flood of immigrants and they are gang members, rapists, drug dealers, and — worse — animals and vermin.

Actually, these people — and they are people — are very much like us. They are responding the same way any of us would respond if we shared their experiences back home. I can't imagine an Ellensburg parent who watched a daughter be raped, a son coerced at gunpoint to join a violent gang, or a neighbor shot for failing to make a monthly extortion payment to a gang for the right to stay in the neighborhood, who wouldn't want to flee, taking their family to safety. Although the journey to safety is expensive and dangerous — 70 percent face violence on the way to our border — the flight is fueled by desperation, not criminal intent.

Some facts may help: in 2017 only less than 1 percent of apprehended individuals at the border were gang members. The peak of immigration at our southern border was 17 years ago, not now. Furthermore, American corporations are lobbying our lawmakers to promote imprisoning immigrants as they have fat contracts for the detention facilities.

Who have we become as a nation when we criminalize people for fleeing to safety? We are descendants, many of us, of refugees. I am. Who have we become as a nation when we'd rather imprison families than reverse economic policies toward their countries that help create the very conditions they are fleeing.

Like so many have said: we can do better than this.

Lyn Fuller

Ellensburg

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