Patrolling Our Migrant Borders BY ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ AND PATRISIA GONZALES LAST FEBRUARY, U.S. Border Patrol agents accompanied law enforcement officers from 13 other law enforcement agencies on a drug raid. The raid netted 41 drug suspects. In addition to the drug suspects, the Border Patrol rounded up 30 undocumented Latino immigrants. What was unusual about this raid is that it occurred in Liberal, Kansas. In the fall of last year, 200 armed agents, state troopers and members of the National Guard staged an immigration raid at a beef packing plant. Three hundred undocumented immigrants were arrested. The INS deported children, many of them U.S. citizens, and illegally detained many workers who had the legal right to be in the country. This raid was staged in Monfort, Nebraska. What border is the Border Patrol and the INS patrolling in Kansas and Nebraska? The raids, along with numerous others that routinely take place hundreds of miles from any international boundary, are evidence that the Border Patrol is not patrolling borders. Instead, it appears to be charged with hunting down people, specifically Mexicans, says Maria Jimenez of the Houston immigration project of the American Friends Service Committee: “If you’re Mexican, you’re the target.” Recently, a federal judge ruled that the Border Patrol can not question people at or near Bowie High School in El Paso. The ruling stems from the complaint that agents routinely question citizens and non-citizens alike, solely on the basis of the brown color of their skin. The Border Patrol is actually a misnomer. Dan Kesselbrenner, director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers’ Guild says: “They are [Border Patrol] a federal police force, enforcing immigration laws.” The following incidents, many of which were compiled by Kesselbrenner’s project and the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, illustrate the extent to which the rights of Latinos, citizens and non-citizens alike, have been violated at work, schools, meetings and homes far from Roberto Rodriguez and Patrisia Gonzales of the Dallas-Fort Worth area are freelance writers on social and political issues. any international border: In June 1993, Phoenix police showed up at a high school graduation party with Border Patrol agents. Responding to a complaint about loud music, the Border Patrol agents picked up and detained two undOcumented immigrant partygoers. In March 1993, in Pittsburgh, California, INS agents selectively questioned, accosted and detained Latino students on their way to classes. The INS also questioned and detained other Latinos in the same Northern California community. In March 1993, in Royal City and Othello, Washington, Latinos were interrogated on the streets and in their cars by INS agents. INS agents also reportedly went door to door. In August 1992 in Portland, Oregon, INS and local and state police conducted a search at an apartment complex. All men were ordered out and were subsequently deported, leaving behind the women and children. In July 1992, a middle-of-the-night raid at a racing track in Elmont, New York, conducted by 60 agents of the INS, resulted in the questioning of 350 of the close to 1,000 stablehands and the arrest of 78. Seventy-five of the arrestees were from Mexico and the other three were from Latin America. In June 1992, in Holland, Michigan, 200 miles from the Canadian border, a local television reporter captured on video an INS agent boarding a bus looking for undocumented immigrants. Claiming he could tell who is undocumented simply by looking at them, he proceeded to interrogate eight Latino passengers on board. One was “mistakenly” arrested. Similar incidents were reported near the Oregon/Washington border in May and in Monterey in Northern California in October. Cassie Booth, a press spokeswoman for the INS in Washington, D.C., says that the jurisdiction of the Border Patrol and INS enforcement agents is not limited to the border. The INS has 37 district offices while the Border Patrol has 26 sector offices which cover all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Most of them are in states that border Mexico, but others border Canada. “Border Patrol and INS agents are federal law enforcement officers … they have the authority to operate in all 50 states,” Boothe said. Enforcement of immigration laws is selective and discriminatory, says Kesselbrenner. Despite estimates that Mexicans account for less than half of the undocumented popula tion, 85 percent of the resources of the Border Patrol are concentrated along the U.S./Mexico border, he says. Congress has placed some limits on the Border Patrol and INS enforcement agents. Agents are authorized to carry out investigations on the border, or the functional equivalent of a border \(airport international arrival permanent and temporary checkpoints. They are also authorized to conduct roving patrols on the highway, within a reasonable distance from the border \(generally 100 air miles from from the border, agents can conduct warrantless searches on buses, trains, ships, etc. On the actual border or its functional equivalents and at checkpoints, agents need no probable cause for “detentive questioning” or to search a person or vehicle. They do, however, need probable cause for an arrest. Away from the border, to question an individual, agents need “reasonable suspicion” \(less than probwithout proper documentation. Skin color alone or ethnic/racial appearance is not a sufficient reason to question an individual. In practice, however, the Border Patrol and INS enforcement agents are not restricted to “reasonable distances” from the border. Other than their own higher command structure, it, is not clear where they derive their authority to operate in non-border areas. As an example, they operate freely in cities such as Los Angeles and Albuquerque, which are more than 100 miles from the Mexican border. Recent news reports show that immigration raids regularly occur in states such as Illinois, Montana, New York, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, North Carolina, Nebraska, Delaware, Missouri and Tennessee. “The border follows migrants,” says Arnoldo Garcia, a spokesman for the immigrant rights network. “So does the Border Patrol.” In many cities, such as El Paso . and cities far removed from the U.S./Mexico border, such as Seattle and Chicago Border Patrol agents also accompany police officers in joint patrols. Some cities call out the Border Patrol in emergencies, as occurred in the 1991 disturbances in Washington, D.C. and the 1992 disturbances in Los Angeles. In all these cities, their primary targets are brown-skinned people. 16 SEPTEMBER 3, 1993
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.