Two of Missoula faith leaders, along with several others, stood in the falling snow in front of the Russell Smith U.S. Federal Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon for a No Hate-No Wall vigil to promote a just and humane immigration policy.

Rev. Laura Folkwein of Montanans for Immigration Justice explained the reason for the vigil in downtown Missoula.

“We’re here in front of the Russell Smith Courthouse to advocate for immigrants because this is where immigrants are tried, as most immigration cases are federal,” began Folkwein. “As most folks know, there is a bipartisan committee that includes Montana Senator Jon Tester working on proposing a deal to President Trump to avoid a partial government shutdown later this week, and there are reports of an agreement.”

Folkwein said that to her organization, Montanans for Immigrant Justice, the wall represents hate.

“Montanans for Immigrant Justice stands for immigrants rights, and we stand against xenophobia and hate, and our perspective is that any money that goes toward increasing the border wall, and this proposal calls for bout 55 more miles of border wall in the Rio Grande Valley is a very bio-diverse region and also contains lots of indigenous land, so there are lots of sticky issues.”

Folkwein said MIJ is also opposed to any further funding for immigration enforcement.

“We also are strongly opposed to any additional funds to increase ICE forces, or towards customs or border patrol increases,” she said. “These agencies operate with impunity, with very little oversight and they conduct human rights abuses on a daily basis.” Asked if she feels there is any real crisis on the southern border, Folkwein said simply, “absolutely not.”

Folkwein is also on the staff at University Congregational United Church of Christ.

Also protesting were Rabbi Laurie Franklin and Narita Calero, a member of Montanans for Immigrant Justice.

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