A 6-year-old girl wearing a Mylar emergency blanket tied around her shoulders like a cape stood Tuesday with her parents in the middle of the Close the Camps rally in downtown Spokane.
The blanket is the same type given to children detained at camps along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The girl, Josephine Lazcano, held a sign she drew on red construction paper that read, “We be kind.”
Lazcano was one of about 150 protesters who gathered on for the local iteration of a series of nationwide Close the Camps protests.
The progressive political action group Move On sponsored the protests, which demanded the closure of immigrant detention centers that have been the target of growing criticism for the conditions in which children and others are being held.
Lazcano’s mother, McKyndree Rogers, cut hearts in the blanket before the event, and together they handed them out to protesters.
The blanket was in her “go-bag” in case of an emergency, Rogers said. The blanket is not enough for children on the border, Rogers said. It is thinner than aluminum foil and is more like paper, she noted.
“I’m not for open borders, but we need to re-evaluate what we’re doing,” Rogers said.
Her daughter is Hispanic and her father’s side of the family “weren’t always legal,” which pushed Rogers to use the situation to teach her child empathy, she said.
Protesters also aimed to encourage members of Congress to visit detention facilities over their Fourth of July recess, like the trip by a group of U.S. representatives on Monday.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse with speakers and chants. Then the group of about 150 marched the few blocks to U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ Spokane office on Post Street.
In a letter delivered to McMorris Rodgers, protesters asked the congresswoman to close the camps, to vote against money for family detention and deportation, and to reunite the families.
“We shouldn’t be caging children who are here as asylum-seekers,” attendee Jennifer Brock said. “I can’t believe this has been going on for a year. It just embarrasses me that I haven’t been protesting constantly.”
Amber Albrandt brought her two sons, ages 1 and 3, to the rally.
“For me, it’s been a humanitarian issue,” Albrandt said.
The issue “hit home” after having children, Albrandt said. She has taken her children to the Women’s March and the Science March this year because they are “family issues,” she said.
Nancy Trautman attended Tuesday’s rally because she is an immigrant. Trautman has a green card and emigrated from Canada in 1984.
“Although I’m not a person of color and I’m not a refugee from a country requiring asylum, I am an immigrant,” Trautman said. “I’m very much aware that all immigrants are going to be treated the same way eventually in order for any of these restrictions to be applied.”
The rights immigrants have now could be taken away, she said.
Megan Pirie got an email from Move On late last week and decided she would organize it. Pirie is a co-founder of the Eastern Washington chapter of All of Us or None. The group fights for the “rights of incarcerated and previously incarcerated families,” Pirie said.
“We need to stop funding incarceration and incarcerating our children,” Pirie said in talking about border facilities. “I think it’s relevant to Spokane, because Spokane is prone to racism and is trying to build a new jail.”
Pirie and her organization protested any effort to build a new jail in Spokane at a rally last month.
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