With all the uproar about the dramatically increased Border Patrol presence in Washington's Olympic Peninsula -- including staff increases of up to 700 percent along the northern border since 2000, and a controversial $5.7 million headquarters currently under construction in Port Angeles -- the agency is attempting to remind the public that Mexicans and Latinos aren't the only ones being detained and deported. Indeed, information recently released by the Border Patrol outpost in Blaine indicates that a veritable United Nations' worth of individuals were arrested for attempting to sneak across the Washington-Canada border.
The "apprehensions" from the past three weeks include:
--Three citizens of India spotted on video surveillance crossing the border near Lynden on September 14. They were picked up by a U.S. citizen in a taxi. The Border Patrol showed up, seized the cab, and released the driver, and "the illegal entrants were processed for removal."
--Also on September 14, a German man was spotted on video walking down a road just outside of Blaine. He allegedly admitted to Border Patrol agents that he had "just entered the United States illegally," and was subsequently taken into custody and deported.
--Three days later, on September 17, a Canadian man was nabbed trying to ride his bicycle across the border near Lynden without stopping to get permission.
--On September 26, eight citizens of India were caught on camera illegally crossing the border near Lynden.
By way of comparison, at least six Mexican citizens were picked up by the Border Patrol over the same period.
According to Border Patrol agent Richard Sinks, spokesman for the Blaine sector, about half of the 600 "apprehensions" last year in the region involved individuals whose nationality was something other than Mexican.
"Anybody we arrest, we take them in and run 'em through our system," Sinks says. "Anybody could claim they just made a mistake [and wandered across the border accidentally] so we can't really just turn 'em back when we don't know anything about them. Terrorists don't have signs they're wearing -- we have to take everybody in, process them, and make sure they're not wanted."
At the same time, a Guatemalan man was also arrested under circumstances that have scrutiny from local media. On September 20, the man was booked by police in Forks for being under the influence while having physical control of a vehicle. Border Patrol agents were summoned to provide translation services, and promptly took him into custody when he admitted that he is an undocumented immigrant.
That scenario is troubling for some in light of a similar case earlier this year -- detailed in a recent Seattle Weekly feature story by Nina Shapiro -- in which a Forks man drowned after he jumped into a river attempting to elude Border Patrol agents who had been summoned as translators by the Forest Service.
His death, combined with more than 80 alleged incidents of harassment, racial profiling, and other "troubling action" by area Border Patrol agents, caused an uproar in Forks and the surrounding area. The situation was further inflamed when Border Patrol agent Christian Sanchez spoke out publicly, saying that the Border Patrol agents on the Olympic Peninsula are "bored" and suggested that their increased presence is a waste of tax dollars.
Sinks says he began publishing the "Weekly Blotter" in response to interest from the community as to what, exactly, the Border Patrol agents spend their days doing. Judging by the information provided, they arrest illegal immigrants. But the question still remains: Does that make us any safer?