A pair of recent cases indicate undocumented immigrants are still being arrested by the Border Patrol when local authorities summon the feds to serve as Spanish translators, despite similar circumstances that led to a man's death earlier this year in Forks.
Salinas opened the door and ran down an incline that led from the highway to the raging Sol Duc River. Ramos followed, but stumbled. After catching up, the Forest Service officer grabbed her by the hair, got her against the ground, and handcuffed her, according to Ramos. By the time she looked up, Salinas was gone.But the outcry over Salinas' death apparently hasn't stopped local Border Patrol agents from making arrests after they are summoned to serve as translators.
For three weeks, an ad hoc search party of local Hispanics--on some days 150 strong--went through the woods, calling his name, although they feared he had drowned. The Border Patrol issued a statement saying that Salinas, who couldn't swim, had jumped into the river. On June 5, a friend who had joined the search party spotted Salinas' body caught on a log at the river's edge. He was 42 years old and left behind three grown children locally and two more in Mexico.
Salinas' death traumatized the Hispanic population of Forks--about a third of the town's 3,500 residents--and cast light on the Border Patrol's aggressive presence in town. Agents have stopped and questioned Hispanics paying their water bill at City Hall, filling up at the gas station, leaving the grocery store, and riding their bikes. High-school students as well as adults have been asked for their papers, according to the Forks Human Rights Group, which has compiled nearly 80 stories of such encounters.
According to the agency's weekly blotter, on October 26 Bellingham Police called seeking help understanding Spanish-speaking suspect, and Border Patrol agents made an arrest after the man "admitted to being illegally present in the United States."
Then, on October 29, Border Patrol agents arrested a Mexican man "in a remote area of Highway 101 southwest of Forks, WA" after he was pulled over by a Park Ranger during a routine traffic stop.
Obviously, not all calls result in a man drowning to death. But as Shapiro reported on Salinas' case, civil liberties groups and immigration activists across the country claim Border Patrol agents frequently turn otherwise benign encounters into impromptu interrogations.
Jeffrey Jones, spokesman for the Border Patrol's Blaine Sector, says the agency doesn't keep track of how often requests for translation services result in arrests, but he notes that it is standard procedure for agents to be on the lookout.
"The translation calls begin simply as that -- assisting the other agency with Spanish language," Jones tells Seattle Weekly. "Then through the process, things can come to light that take it a step further. But not all calls result in someone being detained."