Out in the Cold

An effort to create a tent city in Spokane hits a dead-end; plus, the Border Patrol gets out of the translation business

Out in the Cold
Christian Wilson
The scene under the freeway in downtown Spokane last Friday.

Gimme Shelter

Despite plenty of attention and good intentions, it looks unlikely that Ralph and Becky Harvey will get their way. The pair wants to establish a Tent City to shelter homeless people under the freeway near 4th and McClellan, where they say they’d act as security, keeping out alcohol, drugs and sex offenders.

“I will not put up with no bullshit,” Ralph told The Inlander at the Spokane site last week. “I want people in here who are going to want to be here. … I want to prove to that City Council that this is going to be a good environment, a safe environment.”

But it’s only partially up to City Council, Council President Ben Stuckart says, and they’re not interested. The city offers 14-day transient shelter ordinances, but for something longer term the council would have to change the rules and Stuckart says “there’s not a real want to revisit that.” The Harveys could get a permit to set up on private land if they found a willing landowner. They say they’ve talked to one church in West Central, but hoped it would be quicker to ask for the downtown spot.

Plus, the land under I-90 is owned by the state Department of Transportation, so DOT officials have to approve camping there. “I don’t see that happening,” says Stuckart, who called the DOT for guidance after the Harveys approached him. “They said, ‘We put up No Camping signs there because don’t want people camping.’”


Call Me Maybe — Wait, Nevermind

Federal Border Patrol agents will no longer be allowed to translate for cops at motorist stops.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced it will stop letting its officers serve as translators for local law enforcement. At least one federal office has called the practice discriminatory, since it has been used against motorists of Hispanic descent, which has sparked official complaints to the U.S. government.

Jorge L. Barón, executive director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), said in a statement that the change was spurred by complaints brought forth by NWIRP. The complaint included the story of a Spokane resident only identified as “K.L.,” who said Border Patrol agents were called for translation at a traffic stop, even though K.L. had no trouble communicating with police.

What are federal agents like Border Patrol doing 100 miles from the Canadian border? The Spokane Police Department has said using federal officers for translation saves them time and money.

— Joe O’Sullivan

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