This Week's Cover Story: Beyond Borders

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Our cover story this week started with a drowning. A Hispanic man named Benjamin Roldan Salinas had met his death in the Sol Duc River, near the Olympic Peninsula town of Forks, while trying to escape the Border Patrol. The strangest thing about that incident was that the Border Patrol had been called in--supposedly--to "interpret" for a Forest Service officer, who had caught Salinas picking salal without a permit. We wondered: Why would the Forest Service be using immigration enforcement agents as interpreters? So we began digging a little deeper.

We traveled to Forks and met with Crisanta Ramos, Salinas's longtime girlfriend and fellow salal-picker, who was with him during the encounter. What she told us suggested that the Forest Service didn't need an interpreter after all, and in any case likely called the Border Patrol before he had even talked to the couple.

We learned this was far from an isolated incident. All across the country, Border Patrol agents are routinely getting involved in things--traffic stops and 911 calls, for instance--that you wouldn't think they'd have anything to do with. In fact, agents seem to be stopping Hispanics at random, a practice that veers into dubious legal territory.

Stranger still is where this is all happening--not at the actual border but as far as 100 miles away. This expansion toward the interior has occurred in recent years as the federal government has dramatically increased the agency's manpower and resources.

So it is that Forks, a town that is 200 miles away from a main port of entry from Canada, is suddenly a hot spot for Border Patrol agents. Once known as "the logging capital of the world," now a mecca for fans of the vampire romance series Twilight, Forks boasts a large number of Mexicans and Guatemalans who forage and cut wood in the lush rain forest that surrounds the town.

Due to Border Patrol activity, Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon tells us, many of them have now simply "disappeared."

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