MOUNT VERNON — Following reports of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Skagit County in recent weeks, Bellingham-based Community to Community Development held a vigil Wednesday in downtown Mount Vernon.
Below the towering columns of the Skagit County Courthouse and beside a static artillery display, local teens stood inside a makeshift cage.
They were donned with aluminum foil and surgical masks in solidarity with migrant children in southern detention camps who reportedly have been given similar items for warmth and sickness prevention.
Just outside the wire fencing, piles of toothbrushes and water represented the basic human necessities that detainees are reportedly not receiving.
The vigil was held in conjunction with one in Ferndale the same morning.
“We’re just here to give a message to city officials that we want to bring awareness to what’s happening at the border,” said vigil organizer Arely Dominguez. “We won’t allow terrorism and abuse against our community.”
Co-organizer Lucy Lopez added, “We’re going to do whatever it is to take ICE out of our community.”
About 10:30 a.m., Marco Morales led a four-directions ceremony, a sacred indigenous drum and chant meant to invite the ancestors to witness the work that is taking place. Smoke rose out of a sage smudging container as a group of more than 30 people turned to face in four directions.
“It’s a shame on all of us and this country that when people seek refuge here, they’re thrown in cages,” Morales said to crowd members who bore signs with slogans such as “migrar no es un crimen ya basta de deportación,” “what if white children were in cages” and “abolish ice, stop the deportation.”
For some, the vigil was a call to action after recent photos and tweets from members of Congress who visited two detention centers in Texas.
“For them to put them in cages like that …” said Rocio Lopez, pausing to fight tears. “I don’t want to cry. It’s sad. It’s a hard time.”
State Sen. Liz Lovelett, D-Anacortes, stood on the curb with her two children.
“When I have to have conversations with my children about why other children are being put in cages, that’s a really disturbing conversation to have,” she said. “I’m here in solidarity with people in our area who are suffering from this kind of discrimination and inhumane conduct.”
At the state level, Lovelett said she remains diligent in making sure efforts to make Washington a sanctuary state are being “implemented with local needs in mind.”
In the last legislative session, the Keep Washington Working Act was passed to protect the privacy and civil rights of all Washington residents by prohibiting state agencies from aiding immigration enforcement.
But with detention centers in Ferndale and Tacoma, the issue remains close to home, and the fight won’t stop until the children are returned to their families.
“We’ve seen all the generational trauma caused by separating people. We’ve seen it with Jewish people, we’ve seen it with native people, and we’ve seen it with African Americans, and now we’re seeing it again with our people,” Dominguez said.