Northern Border Report Offers New Evidence of Racial Profiling, Cites Son Forced to Choose Between His Mother and Himself

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Where's the evidence? That's the question OneAmerica's Kendra Anderson says she and her co-workers would get in meetings with the Border Patrol when they raised allegations of racial profiling and other abuses along the northern border. Well, now the immigrant rights group says it has evidence: 135 stories that it has collected in a year's worth of research.

OneAmerica, in collaboration with University of Washington's Center for Human Rights, is releasing a report next Tuesday that tells those stories.

According to an advance draft reviewed by Seattle Weekly, sixty-three of those stories concern alleged racial profiling, that is the questioning of people simply because they look like immigrants. Such profiling is illegal. Border Patrol agents are, like other law enforcement officers, required to have probable cause before detaining anyone.

Other incidents convey the Border Patrol's omnipresence, particularly in the small border towns of Blaine, Lynden, Sumas. Agents linger outside courtrooms, in a Wal-Mart parking lot, near fields where Latinos pick fruit. They even handle the 911 dispatch for these towns, so that people calling in an emergency might end up getting themselves or family members deported. "For us," one local resident told OneAmerica researchers, "911 as an emergency number is not possible."

Local law enforcement also frequently calls in the Border Patrol, the report notes, for "interpretation" services. Often, agents end up detaining the person they're supposed to be interpreting for.

The report reaffirms a Seattle Weekly cover story on these same issues, and brings new examples to the table.

There are the Lynden parents who were reportedly stopped while on their way to pick up a feverish child at daycare. The dad was deported. There are the teen siblings--both U.S. citizens--who were allegedly surrounded by seven Border Patrol cars after being stopped for speeding.

Most curiously of all, there is the family questioned by Border Patrol after being stopped for a noisy muffler. When an adult son came to pick up the car, agents questioned him too. According to the report, they gave the son a "choice:" Either he could be detained or his mother would be. (Both were apparently undocumented, as was the dad.) The young man chose himself, according to the report, and he and his father were deported.

It's a tale reminiscent of Sophie's Choice, the novel about a woman forced during the Holocaust to choose between her kids. And Border Patrol spokesperson Jeffrey Jones says "it doesn't sound accurate. The Border Patrol doesn't give choices like this." It arrests everyone it finds who is illegally here, he says. Jones also disputes the charges of racial profiling, which he says the agency has a policy against.

Unfortunately, the authors of the report aren't able to cite Border Patrol records, which would be helpful in verifying these accounts. The report says a request for records is pending. Still, given the now momentous number of narratives--in this report, SW's, those told by a new coalition of northern border states raising these same issues--it's obvious there is questionable if not illegal behavior that the feds need to address.

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