Monday, September 21, 2020
Sept. 21, 2020

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In Our View: Story series spurs important community forum

The Columbian

Let’s talk.

One of the purposes of newspaper editorials is to foster a community discussion. Be it on gun rights or homelessness or taxes or any number of subjects, The Columbian’s Editorial Board frequently presents the underlying facts of an issue and our own conclusions while emphasizing the need for dialogue among local residents and leaders.

The reason for the exercise: We don’t have all the answers, and a variety of opinions and insights is necessary to help generate the type of community that is best for all of us.

Now, local residents have an opportunity to weigh in on one of the most pressing issues facing our community and, indeed, the entire United States: immigration policy. A public forum featuring state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and a panel of stakeholders will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. today in Vancouver Community Library’s Columbia Room at 901 C St.

The event is free and open to the public, and seating will be on a first-come, first-seated basis. Questions for the panel will be accepted from the audience.

The impetus for the event is “Bridging the Border,” a three-day series published in December by The Columbian. The series chronicled the family of Ramon Flores, his wife and their seven children, and how U.S. immigration policy has impacted their lives.

Flores came to the United States illegally from Mexico about 20 years ago and settled in Vancouver. He married and raised a family, but their lives were overturned three years ago, when Flores was stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while on a business trip in Everett.

It later came to light that Motel 6 employees made a practice of turning over the names of guests to immigration officials, despite the lack of a warrant or probable cause. After that practice was revealed, two lawsuits, including one from Ferguson’s office, were filed; the motel chain eventually settled out of court for $22 million.

Last year, Ferguson said: “Motel 6’s actions tore families apart and violated the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Washingtonians. Our resolution holds Motel 6 accountable for illegally handing over guests’ private information without a warrant. Any other business that tries to violate Washingtonians’ right to privacy can expect to hear from my office.”

Flores has been deported to Mexico and is ineligible to apply for a visa for at least 10 years. His wife and children, all American citizens, have relocated to Southern California to be near him.

This is the story of just one family, but it exemplifies a pervasive issue.

Flores was wrong to enter the United States illegally, and protecting our borders and being aware of who is entering our country is a matter of national security. One of President Donald Trump’s primary campaign issues in 2016 was border security, and it is a subject that rightly resonates with millions of Americans.

On the other hand, a policy that divides families is cruel and unusual. So, too, is the lack of a path to citizenship for millions of people who have been in this country for years or decades.

U.S. immigration policy must be updated and reformed in order to reach the oft-conflicting goals of national security and human compassion. There are no easy paths for arriving at such a compromise, and getting there will require a thoughtful discussion — and thoughtful listening — about the myriad issues involved.

So, let’s talk.