Last month, the Forks Human Rights Group asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for an investigation into Border Patrol practices on the Olympic Peninsula. Yesterday, Napolitano got a letter from a much broader group: a coalition of organizations across northern border states.
As funding for CBP [Customs and Border Protection] has soared, the agency's enforcement activity has drifted inland, often times many miles from the border or any point of entry. As this enforcement activity within 100 miles of the border has increased, so too have questionable practices that violate constitutional rights and standards.
SW detailed these practices in a cover story last year, citing a number of cases in which Border Patrol agents appeared to be questioning Hispanics at random, without the reasonable suspicion required of such stops. On one occasion, agents showed up after a Latino mom in the Washington town of Nooksak called 911 about an accident her little girl had at a birthday party.
The 911 incident is cited in the Northern Border Coalition's letter to Napolitano, as are a dozen or so other examples. One concerns a Border Patrol operation that occurred in the parking lot of a Detroit church, whereby a man was detained for an hour without explanation. Others deal with U.S. citizens who were nonetheless detained by disbelieving agents.
The coalition is making a number of requests of Napolitano, including that she clearly delineate where the Border Patrol is authorized to operate and what agents are allowed to do.
The letter is the latest flak for the Border Patrol, which is also facing questions from Congress members and others about possible over-funding. The scrutiny, in this state, heated up after a Forks immigrant died while being chased by agents supposedly acting as interpreters.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the leadership of the Border Patrol's Olympic Peninsula outpost has just changed. A Peninsula Daily News piece this week describes the new agent in charge, Jay Cumbow, as "easygoing."
We'll see whether his affability leads to any changes in his office's hyper-aggressive practices. Lesley Hoare, a spokesperson of the Forks Human Rights Group, tells SW she's hopeful. One positive sign: Cumbow asked her group for a meeting on his very first day of work. He didn't say much, Hoare relates. But she got the impression that he and his staff "have clearly heard our concerns."