I've compiled several interesting news articles and YouTube videos regarding a public forum held on November 3, 2008 in Jefferson County, Washington below.
The forum was prompted by widespread concern in Jefferson County regarding the use of suspicionless checkpoints by Border Patrol agents operating no where near the border. The forum consisted of Blaine Sector Border Patrol Chief John Bates and sector mouthpiece Michael Bermudez along with local law enforcement officials and two immigration defense attorneys.
Over 400 local residents attended the forum and from the sound of things, very few were satisfied with the answers to their questions. Of particular note was the refusal of the Jefferson County Sheriff to assist the Border Patrol with identifying or charging individuals who refuse to provide ID or respond to investigatory questions posed to them by agents at such roadblocks:
U.S. Border Patrol Chief John Bates -- who is the chief patrol agent for the Blaine Sector, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula -- was asked by one person in the audience that was crammed into the Chimacum High School auditorium what would happen if a driver refused to give identification to a federal agent at a roadblock.
Bates said he would have to involve the Sheriff's Office.
Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Brasfield said his office would not respond.
"I'm sorry, but we would not get involved," Brasfield said to Bates.
"We do not have any rights to issue an infraction in that situation."
Given that a local tribal officer recently colluded with Border Patrol agents to cite me for a civil infraction of impeding traffic while I was being seized at such a checkpoint, I find the above exchange quite interesting.
I also note that one of the defense attorney's misspoke when he stated Border Patrol agents need reasonable suspicion to search individuals away from the border. This is false given that the Supreme Court in U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte ruled agents need probable cause or consent to conduct searches at checkpoints away from the border or its functional equivalent.
I've previously blogged about the Border Patrol buildup in Washington state here and here. I've also documented my own experiences at such checkpoints in Southern Arizona here and elsewhere in this blog. As reported here, the ACLU has also entered the fray regarding these gross violations of our 4th amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
Many thanks to those that have provided me with links and feedback regarding the Border Patrol buildup in Washington State.
By Barney Burke, Leader Staff Writer
People with concerns about the increased presence of the U.S. Border Patrol on the Olympic Peninsula didn't mince words when they asked questions of Border Patrol agents at a forum Monday night in Chimacum.
The Nov. 3 panel included local law enforcement officials and two defense attorneys involved with immigration issues.
"We need to listen, we need to work together," said John Bates, Blaine chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol.
Bates described how his agency's local staff has increased from four agents in 2000 to 25 today. "The numbers that I have now are absolutely essential," he said.
The Border Patrol is building a new facility in Port Angeles, but it will not include a detention facility, Bates said. As the Border Patrol adds airborne and marine resources, "the need for checkpoints would lessen," Bates said in response to audience questions.
Michael Bermudez, a supervising Border Patrol agent, said, "Tactical traffic checkpoints are only one element of keeping our borders safe."
Bermudez noted that the Border Patrol works with other federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives, as well as local drug interdiction efforts such as OPNET, the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, which includes local agencies.
"As they are protecting our borders, we should also be protecting our Constitution," said Shankar Narayan, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.
He called the Border Patrol's practice of conducting checkpoints anywhere within 100 miles of U.S. borders the "Constitution-free zone." In effect, the Border Patrol's checkpoints encompass two-thirds of the U.S. population and nine of the 10 most populous areas, Narayan said.
"Government agencies are accountable to you," said Narayan. "Do we really need 45 Customs and Border Patrol agents?"
Ann Benson, directing attorney for the Washington Defenders' Association Immigration Project, gave an overview of immigration trends. "You'll be stunned to see what's happening," she said of federal detention centers like the one in Tacoma, which is to be expanded from 1,000 beds to 1,500.
Until 1996, most undocumented people here were from Canada, Benson said. But two years after NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was ratified, Canada was eclipsed by Mexico.
And while Chief Bates characterized Olympic Peninsula traffic checkpoints as "permanent," Benson said they are "random." Only permanent checkpoints, not random checkpoints, have been upheld in court, she argued.
Benson and Narayan said that no case involving checkpoints like those on the Olympic Peninsula has been fully tested in federal court.
Asked if the traffic checkpoints had resulted in any major drug busts, Bates said, "We have not made a major seizure of narcotics." However, he stressed that there is a lot of gun and drug smuggling through Washington as well as trafficking of indentured servants from other countries.
Fifteen undocumented immigrants have been taken into custody at checkpoints here, Bates said. Six were from Guatemala and nine from Mexico.
Seven people have been arrested on drug charges, Bates said, and no one has been arrested for terrorism.
Chimacum farmer Roger Short told of an employee who had to go to Jefferson County District Court for a traffic ticket and was questioned by a Border Patrol agent in a Courthouse hallway. "I thought the Border Patrol was going too far," Short said to applause.
"The only way to determine if [someone] is legally here or not is to ask questions," said Bates. "We don't target specific groups."
Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval relayed concerns she's heard from city residents who say they have been stopped by Border Patrol agents and even followed to their places of work.
"We do do that," Bates said, noting that it is legal for agents to ask people questions. If someone doesn't have an ID, Bates said, the "penalty" is that "we spend more time talking."
"Once we determine the situation does not require further investigation, we release them," said Bates. "It's been tested all the way to the Supreme Court."
Benson, the defense attorney, agreed that Washington drivers - but not passengers - must show ID if asked. But she stressed that the U.S. Constitution protects citizens and non-citizens alike.
"Odds are, you will get arrested," said Benson of the situation undocumented immigrants often face.
The forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters, American Association of University Women, Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader, Port Townsend Peace Movement, and City of Port Townsend.
If you're stopped at a checkpoint: You have the right to remain silent, attorneys say
Although it's not uncommon to hear of undocumented aliens being incarcerated, "it's not a crime, it's a civil violation," said Ann Benson, directing attorney for the Washington Defenders' Association Immigration Project.
Immigration law is as complex as tax law, she said, and people frequently don't know even the fundamental rules.
People accused of violating immigration laws have the right to an attorney and a hearing before a judge, but they must pay for their own attorney, she said.
"The Border Patrol can approach you and ask questions," said Benson, but "people don't understand the right to remain silent."
The Fifth Amendment, protecting against self-incrimination, applies to citizens and non-citizens alike. However, Miranda warnings - "you have the right to remain silent" - are not required in immigration cases, she said.
If you get stopped at a traffic checkpoint, Benson advises:
1. Don't answer questions.
2. Show and carry your identification.
3. Don't sign anything.
4. Don't lie.
5. Insist on talking to a lawyer.
According to Port Townsend Police Chief Conner Daily, Washington's law pertaining to "notices of infraction," such as speeding tickets, has been revised. A driver no longer has to sign non-criminal citations.
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 1):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 2):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 3):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 4):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 5):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 6):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 7):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 8):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 9):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 10):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 11):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 12):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 13):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 14):
Jefferson County, Washington - Border Patrol Forum (part 15):