ACLU, immigrant groups to keep an eye on U.S. Border Patrol after profiling-case win

September 24, 2013

The Border Patrol will share records of every traffic stop it makes on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula for 18 months with immigrant advocacy groups as part of a settlement to a lawsuit that said agents were racially profiling people they pulled over.

The agreement settles a lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project against the Border Patrol. The suit alleged that people were stopped and questioned for the way they looked and without reasonable suspicion.

As part of the settlement reached Tuesday, the federal agency also agreed to retrain its agents stationed on the Olympic Peninsula on the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and requires warrants, federal court filings show. The agency also will write a letter reaffirming that agents must adhere to the protections provided by the amendment when they are on patrol.

The Border Patrol, though, admits no wrongdoing in the settlement.

“This agreement confirms that Border Patrol can’t pull over a vehicle because of the driver’s race or ethnicity or simply because the person lives in proximity to the border,” said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “We hope that the reporting requirements and the additional training will ultimately provide greater accountability, and restore a measure of dignity for folks who live in this region.”

Every six months for 18 months, the Border Patrol will provide the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project copies of the forms its agents must fill out after every traffic stop on the Olympic Peninsula. Personal information of the people contacted, though, will be redacted.

The government’s attorneys sought a settlement with the groups after a judge denied their motion to dismiss the case, Adams said.

“This settlement is confirmation that we can both ensure the safety of our borders and protect all members of our communities in a constitutional manner,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said in a statement.

Durkan’s office said the settlement saves the government a lengthy court case.

Washington is not the only northern border state where tensions have arisen from Border Patrol security practices, and the lawsuit highlights problems when a local or federal law enforcement officer uses traffic stops as a tool of immigration enforcement, said Cecillia D. Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Similar complaints have been voiced in New York, Wang said.

“Whenever you have any kind of local or federal agents ferret out people on patrol . . . you’re going to see a pattern of civil rights abuses. You can’t rely on race and appearance in order to determine immigration status,” she said.

— Associated Press

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