March 12 editorial

What are we allowing to go on in the name of fear?

Last week the Customs and Border Protection, a federal agency, had inspection stops in Anacortes for ferry passengers coming from Orcas Island. Eight people were apprehended and immediately sent to points unknown, according to Joe Giuliano, Public Information Officer for the U.S. Border Patrol. Later it was determined that these people were sent to Tacoma and Pennsylvania. Giuliano referred to people such as those apprehended as “bad guys.”

By what measure are the 10-year Friday Harbor residents and their teenage daughters, and the young laborer also apprehended “bad guys?”

Because they live and work in our community without going through proper immigration procedures, they are “illegal immigrants” and violators of civil law.

But to apprehend them on an inter-local “highway,” not a national border, and to ship them incommunicado to points unknown, to refuse them advocates, to break up families for a civil violation – are these actions we support?

Or are they policies we swallow because we’re so afraid that we’ve allowed “Homeland Security” to silence all other concerns, even legal and humane considerations?

If we don’t object to incidents that happen in our front yard, what are we willing to protest? Or will our silence imply consent.

Last month, a returning Orcas Island construction worker, originally from Scotland, and married to an island woman, was refused re-entry into the U.S. from Canada, because his visa had expired. Sad, maybe outrageous, but fair enough given that it was an international border and his documentation was inadequate.

But last week’s events were crossings from the islands into Anacortes.

Apparently our fear of terrorists trumps long-held laws regarding federal non-interference in in-state matters, including travel.

These people belong to our community. They work for us, and work hard at jobs that historically U.S. citizens don’t want, because they are too lowly or arduous.

Some island employers have given up trying to work within the system to employ undocumented workers. Others still depend upon them, and shield them as best they can.

But we have other jobs to consider – the jobs of those who act out our fears of strangers, and yes, of people who look differently from us.

County Council member Alan Lichter has said, “There will be more of this, and the scary thing is it’s done in silence, so that even the media isn’t aware of what’s happening. If there’s no witnesses, one is just disappeared – the ultimate police state, especially if responsible people don’t speak up.”

As we hand over tax money to feed the behemoth that Homeland Security has become, are we proud of the job they’re doing? Are we proud of ourselves for standing by silently as longtime friends, neighbors and co-workers “disappear” from the islands?

What can we do?

We can stop and say, “Hey wait a minute. Am I going to let this go by without saying or doing something, busy as I am?”

We can act local. We can call State Ferries and register our complaints; even though border patrol operations are not their decision, their “squeaky wheels” can register with higher powers-that-be. We can protest to local, state, and federal legislators to rein in aggressive and expensive intimidation agents. We can ask our County Councilmembers to speak out for us as representatives of a community that is not afraid to protest acts of over-reaching authority. Oh sure, we’ll get justifications for why in the name of security, we must allow this kind of jackboot “protection.”

It is more difficult to protest the actions of government agencies in these post 9-11 days. We do realize there are real dangers at our borders. But protest at civil injustice is a proud part of our American heritage.

Joe Giuliano, public information officer for Customs and Border Protection for the Bellingham Homeland Security’s office can be reached at 360-332-9200.

Susan Harris, Customer Information Manager for Washington Ferries, is at 206-515-3460.

Marta Coursey, Ferries Director of Communications, is at 206-515-3918.

County Council, 378-2898, 55 Second Street, Friday Harbor, 98250, council@co.san-juan.wa.us

Senator Harriet Spanel, 360-786-7678, PO Box 40440, Olympia WA 98504-0440, spanel.harriet@leg.wa.gov

Representative Dave Quall, 360-786-7800, PO Box 40600, Olympia WA 98504-0600, quall.dave@leg.wa.gov

Representative Jeff Morris, 360-786-7970, PO Box 40600, Olympia WA 98504-0600, morris.jeff@leg.wa.gov

Senator Patty Murray, 202-224-2621, email through website, www.murray.senate.gov

Senator Maria Cantwell, 202-224-3441, or 1-888-648-7328, email through website, cantwell.senate.gov

Representative Rick Larsen, 202-225-2605, email through website www.house.gov/larsen

This has come home to us. These are our neighbors and our co-workers. We should do something.