After hearing from constituents who raised concerns over a U.S. Border Patrol booth at this weekend’s Hoopfest, Spokane City Councilwoman Kate Burke has asked the lead organizer of the massive 3-on-3 basketball tournament to consider rescinding his invitation.
“I know this event is happening tomorrow, but this is unacceptable and irresponsible,” Burke said in an email Friday to Matt Santangelo, the tournament’s executive director. “Please reconsider having them at Hoopfest.”
While Santangelo declined an opportunity for an interview, he said in an email that Border Patrol, like other vendors, was at Hoopfest for outreach and to field questions from the community.
“Their booth presence on site is not part of an active enforcement operation,” Santangelo said.
Bill Kingsford, a spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Spokane sector, said agents were not at Hoopfest to take active enforcement actions. For the past few years, he said, the agency has set up a booth at Hoopfest for recruitment purposes.
To his knowledge, there have been no arrests or detainments by agents attending the event.
“As long as we go and are able to go, we like to be there,” Kingsford said.
Still, their presence has alerted local activists, many of whom have become increasingly concerned about Border Patrol stops at the Spokane Intermodal Center. Earlier this year, the bus station made national news when Portland comedian Mohanad Elshieky said he was accosted by agents there. He has since sued the agency.
Paul Dillon, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and Idaho, said activists and volunteers involved in immigration advocacy would attend Hoopfest to hand out “know your rights” cards – a document for immigrants that recommends they stay silent and ask for an attorney if contacted by immigration agents.
Given the current political climate, the Border Patrol’s presence is not welcoming, Dillon said.
“It’s the exact opposite of that,” he said. “This could not send a worse message to Spokane.”
City Council President Ben Stuckart, meanwhile, said that while he didn’t personally support the booth being at Hoopfest, there wasn’t much the city could do to bar Border Patrol from a private event.
“How do you choose who has booths or not?” Stuckart said. “If I had an event would I have Border Patrol there? No. Do I think having Border Patrol at an event is inviting? No. That’s why I wouldn’t do it.”
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