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Tri Cities coalition builds ties to immigrants through art

The Tri-Cities Immigrant Coalition (TCIC) formed in the summer of 2017 to be in solidarity with immigrant communities who face the impact of the current dehumanizing rhetoric.

Marsha Stipe, Mickey Berry, Meg Thompson, Donna Kary and Carla Chiottie of the Tri-Cities Immigrant Coalition stand outside the fence at the Yakima airport as shackled immigrants board planes for deportation.                              Photo from TCIC Facebook page

They also share with the wider community ways immigrant neighbors benefit that community, said Marsha Stipe, a member of Shalom UCC in Richland.

The Mission and Social Justice Committee of Shalom UCC realized that immigrant families were living in fear of separation and deportation.

So the church helped form the coalition to educate the community on immigrants, immigrant issues, immigration procedures and laws.  Now it’s a community coalition.

The Pacific Northwest Conference of the UCC also provided a grant to support the group.

The coalition also reaches out by helping immigrants know their rights, building relationships with elected and appointed officials, and volunteering on the statewide 24-7 Hotline and Rapid Response.

“We network with our community to share information about immigrants and their contributions to our economy and culture,” said Marsha, the TCIC coordinator. 

The coalition wants residents of the community to have accurate information about immigrants, laws and procedures and ways to work for comprehensive immigration reform.

Marsha Stipe is active in the Tri-Cities Immigrant Coalition.

In May 2018, they held a forum with Benton and Franklin County sheriffs, educators, a Pasco City Council member. Lee Gibbons, the pastor of Northwest United Protestant Church, was moderator of the discussion addressing questions about immigration, crime, education and other issues.

In October 2018, the Tri-Cities Immigrant Coalition held their first “Celebrating Our Immigrant Community through the Arts,” with an art show at the Monarcha Winery in Kennewick. 

It drew about 400 people to see original works by seven local artists, who were Latino, Muslims, Sikhs and more.

The art was in acrylics, fabric, mixed media, multimedia, video, sculpture, poetry and music. Both immigrants and children of immigrants contributed art. 

Part of the show told a story of “Inspiring Latinos” through video profiles of four community members. The show also included an exhibit of photos of immigrants in the Tri-Cities.

The goal was for people in Tri-Cities to learn about their neighbors through art, said Marsha.

“The goal is to counter the negative narratives, rhetoric and emotions presented in media and by the administration, and to create positive narratives for the Tri-Cities,” she said.

After viewing the art, attendees shared photos, drawings and comments, which became part of the exhibit.

“Those attending saw that the community is more progressive than they had assumed,” she said.

Some artists sold their art.

In September 2019, they held another exhibition with original art by immigrant and first generation artists with more than 500 attending.

They also shared photographic portraits of immigrant community members and told their stories.

Artists from Germany, Mexico, Indonesia, Egypt, Poland and Romania shared a water color landscape, a painting of a woman in her home, a carved and painted wood mask, photography, a 3-D sculpture, jewelry, music and poetry.

Marsha said the 58-member coalition, which holds monthly meetings drawing 15 to 20, has also connected by phone with other UCC churches, such as Fox Island and University Place, which relate with families of immigrants and refugees held at the Northwest ICE Detention Center in Tacoma.

On Oct. 23, five members of the coalition went to the airport at Yakima and joined the Yakima Inmigrant and Refugee Network in a presence and protest of the Department of Homeland Security flights to deport people who have been detained. Marsha said most have not been represented by an attorney.

To express their solidarity and concern as people who were handcuffed and shackled boarded a plane to be sent out of the U.S., the group stood by a fence where they could see the plane and the people could see them, and hear them shouting “¡No están solas”—“You are not alone.” 

“We have worked to counter bias and build trust through education.  We have met with elected officials and written letters to the editor, Marsha added.

In January, the Mid-Columbia Master Singers will give a program, co-sponsored by TCIC, called “American Dreamers,” uplifting DACA and the Dreamers. 

The concerts will be held at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Parish in Pasco, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 11, at St. Joseph’s Church in Kennewick, and 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 12 at St. Joseph Parish in Sunnyside.

They will explore immigration issues with choral works by Melissa Dunphy and other American composers.

The Tri-Cities Immigrant Coalition focuses on community education, engagement, advocacy and immigrant support services.

On Facebook, the coalition shares articles about how immigration makes America great, how border patrol arrest reports can sabotage asylum claims, the history of anti-Hispanic bigotry, and advice from the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network on how people can protect themselves in an ICE raid.

For information, call 541-720-0131 or email


Copyright © Winter 2019-2020 Pacific NW United Church News


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