As I was tipped off to by a press release from the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project (NWIRP), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's civil rights office today made public the findings of an investigation into complaints against the U.S. Forest Service - accused of utilizing discriminatory tactics against Latinos on the Olympic Peninsula by using Border Patrol agents as interpreters.
The findings of the USDA investigation: Yep, using Border Patrol agents as interpreters definitely constitutes discrimination.
Furthermore, the USDA determined that using Border Patrol Agents as law-enforcement backup in routine matters, which the NWIRP had also filed a complaint about, is also discriminatory.
As the NWIRP release notes, in response to this discrimination against Latinos on the Olympic Peninsula the USDA'S Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights directed the Forest Service to make policy changes at the national level to remedy its discriminatory policies and practices, as well as calling for additional steps be taken at the Olympic National Forest offices to make improvements here in our home state.
The ruling comes in response to a NWIRP complaint filed on behalf of salal harvester and her longtime male partner who were subject to the aforementioned (and now officially labeled) discriminatory practices during a run in with U.S. Forest Service in May 2011. As is noted in the NWIRP press release, "The incident led to the death of the partner of the complainant in the case."
Frequent readers of Seattle Weekly will no doubt recognize the themes of the complaint and ruling as Nina Shapiro has been following allegations of discrimination against Border Patrol near the Olympic Peninsula for some time - logging a cover story in July 2011 on the subject, and following up with numerous blog posts in the months since.
Find the full U.S. Department of Agriculture report below: