Thanks to several readers who recently brought this to my attention, I've attached the text of three articles below regarding the proliferation of internal suspicionless Homeland Security checkpoints in Washington State. I have previously highlighted information regarding the use of Homeland Security checkpoints at Ferry docks in Northern Washington State but this latest intrusion spreads the Homeland Security cancer even further into the interior of the country.
Given my own experiences & research regarding internal suspicionless Homeland Security checkpoints, I found several quotes from U.S. Border Patrol mouthpiece Michael Bermudez rather interesting. For instance, take this one where Bermudez explains the scope of these internal suspicionless police state checkpoints:
"Bermudez said the temporary checkpoints' primary objectives are to apprehend terrorists and illegal immigrants. They also are used in conjunction with local law enforcement to arrest felons, seize drugs and weapons and to deter illegal activity, he added."
"(e) Checkpoints: The Border Patrol conducts two types of inland traffic-checking operations; checkpoints and roving patrols. Border Patrol agents can make routine vehicle stops without any suspicion to inquire into citizenship and immigration status at a reasonably located permanent or temporary checkpoint provided the checkpoint is used for the purpose of determining citizenship of those who pass through it, and not for the general search for those persons or the vehicle. Inquiries must be brief and limited to the immigration status of the occupants of the vehicle. The only permissible search is a "plain view" inspection to ascertain whether there are any concealed illegal aliens.
In contrast, INS officers on roving patrol may stop a vehicle only if aware of specific articulable facts, together with rational inferences from those facts, that reasonably warrant suspicion (reasonable suspicion) that the vehicle contains illegal aliens. Absent consent, a more in-depth search requires probable cause for both types of inland traffic-checking operations."
Regardless, the manual makes clear that the Border Patrol has NO legitimate authority to use internal immigration checkpoints as an excuse to look for terrorists, felons, illegal narcotics or weapons. Additionally, the checkpoints can't be used as a legal basis for deterring illegal activity contrary to Agent Bermudez's misleading statements.
As Justice Powell stated in U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte:
"The principal protection of Fourth Amendment rights at checkpoints lies in appropriate limitations on the scope of the stop."
"We are going to continue to put them in areas where people have to pass through from point A to point B."
"Our agents are highly skilled and highly trained."
Anyone who has followed the history of the Border Patrol in recent years knows just how ridiculous this statement is. The U.S. Border Patrol has the most lax hiring practices and background checks of all federal enforcement agencies and is rife with corruption.
Further, the agency admits its attrition rate for new hires is abysmally high making it next to impossible to keep well-trained & experienced agents on the force.
Finally, Agent Bermudez goes on to try & equate Border Patrol agents who seize individuals involuntarily at suspicionless checkpoints inside the country with doctors and lawyers in the private sector who provide a service that individuals voluntarily seek out:
"Bermudez also said he wasn't surprised to hear some complaints. 'You won't see a Border Patrol agent telling doctors or lawyers how to do their jobs,' he said. 'But you will see people trying to tell us how to do our job, even though we're trained to do it.'"
Border Patrol immigration checkpoints like one approaching Hood Canal Bridge to be more common on Peninsula, agency says
By Erik Hidle and Tom Callis, Peninsula Daily News
U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints, such as one near the Hood Canal Bridge on Friday and another about six months ago near Forks, are about to become more common on the North Olympic Peninsula, said an agent.
A checkpoint was set up Friday morning on state Highway 104 one mile west of the Hood Canal Bridge.
"Today we implemented a checkpoint there between approximately 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.," Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Michael Bermudez Bermudez said on Friday.
"These types of check points have proven to be successful in the past, and we are starting to utilize more checkpoints.
"We are expecting to begin using them frequently in and around that area, and in places in Jefferson and Clallam counties."
He declined to say where or when the checkpoints would be.
Border Patrol Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Joseph Guiliano said checkpoints on U.S. Highway 101 are planned north of Forks and south of Discovery Bay between now and mid-September.
Guiliano said agents detained six illegal immigrants at a checkpoint eight miles north of Forks about six months ago eight miles north of Forks.
In March 2007, agents detained seven people at a checkpoint near Forks.
Bermudez said the temporary checkpoints' primary objectives are to apprehend terrorists and illegal immigrants.
They also are used in conjunction with local law enforcement to arrest felons, seize drugs and weapons and to deter illegal activity, he added.
At Friday's checkpoint near the bridge, seven illegal immigrants and one person with a felony warrant were taken into custody, and $2,500 worth of illegally harvested salal was confiscated, Bermudez said.
"Border Patrol checkpoints are a critical tool to protect against illegal activity," he said.
"We are going to continue to put them in areas where people have to pass through from point A to point B."
The checkpoint required vehicles heading eastbound on state Highway 104 to stop briefly while agents performed visual inspections of vehicles and asked drivers questions.
If agents believed more investigation was required, they sent the vehicle to a secondary lane.
Otherwise, drivers were permitted to travel on.
"The supervisor today said traffic was flowing along pretty good through the checkpoint," Bermudez said on Friday.
"I don't believe that at any time did traffic come to standstill."
Waited in line
Jewel and Harry Atwell of Port Townsend said they did have to wait in a line while they passed through the checkpoint on Friday morning.
"We were approaching the bridge when we had to stop in a line," Jewel Atwell said.
"We assumed the bridge was open, but then we saw a big sign that said there were U.S. officers ahead."
Atwell said the agents made them stop and asked them questions, while men on each side of their car looked in at their belongings.
Atwell said she felt the Border Patrol agents had violated their civil liberties and were racially profiling people.
"We asked them what they were doing, and the man said they were looking for someone," she said.
"I told them that they were racially profiling us."
Both the Atwells are Caucasian. Jewel Atwell said that by letting them go through so easily, the agents were practicing racial profiling.
Bermudez said he disagreed with Atwell's view.
"We arrested numerous people today, and one of the people was white," he said.
"We have the authority to do these checkpoints in numerous places and we will."
Bermudez said he understands the frustration of waiting in line, but that the job the Border Patrol is doing is important.
"It's not just illegal immigration we are focusing on because we are reducing crime when we take a felon off the street," Bermudez said.
"Our agents are highly skilled and highly trained."
Bermudez also said he wasn't surprised to hear some complaints.
"You won't see a Border Patrol agent telling doctors or lawyers how to do their jobs," he said.
"But you will see people trying to tell us how to do our job, even though we're trained to do it."
By Allison Arthur and Patrick Sullivan
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington fielded several calls about last Friday's first-ever U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Jefferson County.
With the federal agency acknowledging it plans to step up the frequency of checkpoints on the Olympic Peninsula, ACLU communications director Doug Honig said Tuesday his organization is interested in hearing from people about how the patrol is conducting and practicing the checkpoints, since other police officers in Washington can't do random stops without a reason to believe a crime has been committed.
"Their authority does extend beyond the border, but we don't think they should be using that authority to do random stops of people who are traveling inland when there's no reason to suspect the people they stop have done anything wrong. That's not the way our country normally operates," Honig said.
Border Patrol spokesman Mike Bermudez, a supervisory agent at Blaine Sector headquarters' public affairs office, said that with increased funding and manpower, the checkpoint stops to search for illegal aliens have been expanded on the Olympic Peninsula. He declined to say how or when they might happen. A similar checkpoint was conducted Aug. 25 along U.S. Highway 101 near Forks in Clallam County.
Bermudez, who has worked at the Anacortes checkpoint, said federal regulations define a "reasonable distance" from the border as 100 air miles. In addition to cars, the border patrol also can check any vessel on the water, aircraft, railroad or other modes of transportation.
"No person or vehicle is exempt from inspection procedures at checkpoints. The only exception shall be in case of emergency, where health, safety or exigent circumstances exist," Bermudez said.
Friday's checkpoint on State Route 104, which stopped traffic near the Hood Canal Bridge, netted eight people: One man arrested had an outstanding felony warrant and was taken to the Port Angeles Police Station. Three others arrested in a car were from Mexico. Four people were in a van that drove past the checkpoint. An estimated seven people got out of that van and fled on foot. The four who were apprehended were from Guatemala and were taken to the Border Patrol station in Port Angeles. As of Aug. 26, the three people who fled into the woods from the van had not been apprehended.
Bermudez said Tuesday he did not know details about the people apprehended other that what countries they were from, and he did not know anything about reports that two people had left a 2-month-old baby with friends in Bremerton.
Bermudez said there are three things that could happen with those detained for being illegal aliens: They could request to see an immigration judge, they could request asylum, or they could request to voluntarily return to their country of origin or be deported.
"We had some successful activity," Bermudez said late Friday.
This won't be the last such highway checkpoint in Jefferson County.
"These checkpoints will be occurring on regular basis," Bermudez said.
The checkpoint was along SR 104 at the Hood Canal viewpoint near the large electronic traffic-alert sign. Approaching traffic saw a temporary orange sign "Danger" followed by second sign, yellow, that read "Slow Down" followed by a third sign, "U.S. Officials Ahead."
Orange traffic cones were set up in the SR 104 median. Apparently the eastbound (toward the bridge) traffic was not brought to a complete halt but was slowed to a "rolling stop" for what the Border Patrol calls "primary inspection." Vehicles or persons meriting a closer look were directed into the roadside pullout used for what the agency calls "secondary inspection."
The checkpoint was in use from 9 a.m. to about 1:30 p.m. Aug. 22, when it was closed because officers needed to process the people already in custody, according to Bermudez.
Washington State Patrol and Jefferson County Sheriff's Office personnel were summoned to assist Border Patrol agents and a Border Patrol K-9 unit in the search for the people who fled into the woods.
The Border Patrol is part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a component agency of the federal Department of Homeland Security. Legally speaking, neither the Washington State Patrol nor a county sheriff's office or police department can do random traffic checkpoints, unlike the Border Patrol, which is an arm of the federal government.
The Border Patrol (operating from the Blaine, Wash., sector) had informed the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office a week ago about its intention to create a checkpoint here, according to Undersheriff Tony Hernandez. The undersheriff did not know the checkpoint was in progress until contacted by a Leader reporter Friday afternoon.
"I have a feeling we're going to be having some discussions in the future; all the agencies in this jurisdiction need to know what the guidelines are and what the lines of communication are," Undersheriff Hernandez said, adding, "We are not going to participate in checkpoints."
City of Port Townsend Sgt. Ed Green, asked if city police would assist in such checkpoints, said: "No, generally not. We don't have federal authority to do that. This is way beyond the scope of our purview; we're just city police."
The Washington State Patrol was unaware of the checkpoint, district public information officer Krista Hedstrom said Friday.
State Department of Transportation officials were aware the Border Patrol intended to conduct such highway checkpoints, said Lloyd Brown, DOT communications director, but were not told exact times or dates.
DOT officials connected with the Hood Canal Bridge did not know about the Aug. 22 checkpoint in Jefferson County until contacted by The Leader.
Brown said the Border Patrol can essentially "do what they want" in terms of stopping traffic on a state highway. The DOT has let the Border Patrol know areas where checkpoints could be conducted without causing traffic hazards, and also let the Border Patrol know when road paving or other highway work is taking place.
"We have worked out these limited protocols with them [Border Patrol] to identify locations where they can operate safely and help them understand when their activities might hinder our operations, but it's still their choice on when and where," Brown said.
Agents on scene
A Leader reporter counted eight Border Patrol agents around the checkpoint early Friday afternoon, and others were out looking for the van's occupants.
Bermudez explained that anyone apprehended at the checkpoint who is in the United States illegally would be taken into custody.
"If he's broken immigration laws, he would be taken to Port Angeles," Bermudez said. "If we encounter anyone who is wanted by Jefferson County or the State of Washington or New York State, of course we would hold on to the person."
Agents checked on vehicle drivers and passengers, Bermudez noted.
Anyone who attempts to avoid a Border Patrol checkpoint faces further trouble, he explained, a felony charge.
He emphasized that the checkpoint personnel worked "diligently" to keep traffic flowing.
ACLU spokesman Honig said that, legally, people are not required to answer questions when stopped by a Border Patrol agent.
"But if you decline, they may choose to detain you for a while," he said.
Bermudez agreed that people don't have to answer the primary question: "From what country are you a citizen?"
If people don't answer, the patrol does have a right to detain a person for a "reasonable amount of time," Bermudez said.
A man who works in the Shine area said around 1:30 p.m. that traffic was backed up past South Point Road. Initially, some thought the delay was associated with the Hood Canal Bridge, but that proved not to be the case.
"This is absolutely insane," the man told The Leader. He said the only time he had seen traffic worse on the road was when the Hood Canal Bridge had two bridge openings back to back.
In the meantime, Bermudez said people in Jefferson County should expect to see more checkpoint stops in the future.
"Yes, yes, yes, you will be seeing more of these checkpoints. These checkpoints are set up to provide security as well as to keep the community safe," Bermudez said.
"In the past, they weren't going up as often as they should have due to issues with manpower," the Blaine official said.
"The Border Patrol is required by law to take action when there is reason to believe an individual is in the United States illegally or has committed any kind of offense against the United States," he said.
(Staff writer Melanie Lockhart contributed to this story.)