For Immediate Release
Doug Honig, ACLU: 206-642-2184
Lawsuit Challenges Unconstitutional Stops and Interrogations by Border Patrol Agents on Olympic Peninsula
Three residents of the Olympic Peninsula today filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the U.S. Border Patrol’s practice of stopping vehicles and interrogating occupants without legal justification. Filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the lawsuit says that the Border Patrol’s suspicionless stops on the Peninsula violate constitutional rights, and it seeks a court injunction barring such unlawful stops in the future. Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) and the ACLU of Washington are representing the residents and will seek class-action status for the suit.
“The Border Patrol’s actions have created a climate of fear and anxiety for many people living on the Olympic Peninsula. The residents in this suit all are U.S. citizens who worry that they could be stopped and questioned without reason any time they drive or are passengers in cars. We’re asking the court to put in place safeguards to stop the Border Patrol’s unlawful and unfair practices,” said Sarah Dunne, legal director of ACLU.
“People are being stopped based solely on their appearance and ethnicity. This is unlawful and contrary to American values. No one in a car should be stopped and interrogated by government agents unless the law enforcement officer has a legal basis to do so,” said Matt Adams, legal director of NWIRP.
The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the Border Patrol’s suspicionless stops violate the Fourth Amendment and exceed the agency’s legal powers. The suit seeks to prohibit Border Patrol agents from stopping vehicles without reasonable suspicion that an occupant has entered the U.S. without approval. It also seeks to prohibit stops altogether until each agent on the Olympic Peninsula has received training regarding what constitutes reasonable suspicion for a stop. The suit would have the court require that Border Patrol agents prepare documentation recording the basis of their suspicion that justifies each stop. Furthermore, the documentation should be easily accessible to a court-appointed special master to monitor compliance.
The plaintiffs have experienced unwarranted stops and interrogations in a variety of settings, all while going about their daily lives. Agents provided flimsy pretexts or no reason at all for the stops. Some stops appear to be based on nothing but the Border Patrol agents’ perception of the plaintiffs’ ethnicity or the color of their skin. The incidents are typical of troubling encounters which many residents of the Peninsula have had with Border Patrol agents.
• Jose Sanchez is a resident of Forks and correctional officer for the Olympic Corrections Center. In 2011 in Forks, Border Patrol agents stopped the vehicle he was in, saying its windows were too dark – even though the driver’s side window was not tinted. The agents questioned Sanchez – a U.S. citizen – about where he was from.
In an earlier incident, Sanchez and a family member were traveling in a vehicle near Forks, when Border Patrol agents stopped the car and interrogated him about his immigration status. Though agents told him that his vehicle was stopped because its windows were too dark, the agents did not ask for his insurance or registration. When he provided those documents, the agents refused to inspect them.
In yet another incident at Forks, Sanchez was traveling home in a vehicle which was followed by Border Patrol agents. When he arrived at his house, the agents approached him. But when Sanchez began to record the encounter with his cell phone, the agents backed away.
When Sanchez called the Border Patrol office to complain about being repeatedly stopped and interrogated, the office supervisor told him simply, “We have certain cars that we need to pull over.”
• Ismael Ramos Contreras is a resident of Forks and a senior and student government body president at Forks High School. In 2011 at Port Angeles, he was traveling in a vehicle with several teenage friends to pick up tuxedos for a Quinceañera (15th birthday) celebration when the vehicle was stopped by four Border Patrol agents. One agent tried to take the key out of the ignition, so the driver handed him the key. Agents interrogated the boys about their immigration status, but never provided a reason for the stop.
In an earlier incident in 2010, while walking out of the Clallam County Courthouse in Forks with his mother, Ramos Contreras was approached by a person who addressed him by name and began questioning him about where he lived and came from. Based on the questions, his mother identified the person as a Border Patrol agent; the person indeed turned out to be an agent who was in plain clothes and wearing their badge backwards.
• Ernest Grimes is a resident of Neah Bay, a correctional officer at Clallam Bay Corrections Center, and a part-time police officer. In 2011 near Clallam Bay, a Border Patrol agent stopped the vehicle in which Grimes was traveling, approached with his hand on his weapon, and yelled at Grimes to roll down his window. Without offering a reason for the stop, the agent interrogated Grimes about his immigration status. Grimes, who is African American, was wearing his correctional officer uniform at the time.
Representing the plaintiffs are NWIRP legal director Matt Adams, ACLU-WA legal director Sarah Dunne and staff attorney La Rond Baker, and cooperating attorneys Nicholas Gellert, Brendan Peters, Javier Garcia, and Steve Merriman of the firm Perkins Coie LLP.
* * *
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project promotes justice for low-income immigrants by pursuing and defending their legal status. We focus on providing direct legal services, supported by our education and public policy work. NWIRP is the only entity in the list of “Free Legal Services” that is given to individuals placed in removal (aka deportation) proceedings in Washington State.
- Federal Judge Grants Preliminary Approval of Settlement Agreement in National Class Action Lawsuit on Work Authorization for Asylum Seekers
- Vulnerable Immigrants in Deportation Proceedings Unable to Represent Themselves Must Get Counsel and a Hearing
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project to Recognize Regional Leaders
- Class Action Lawsuit Forces Policy Change to Protect Detained Immigrants with Serious Mental Disabilities
- Agreement Reached in National Class Action Lawsuit on Work Authorization for Asylum Seekers
- UW Report: Collaboration between King County jails and ICE results in unfair and costly impact
- Widespread Abuse by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Documented in National Wave of Complaints
- Legal Groups to Announce Wave of Cases Highlighting Nationwide Abuses By U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- Granger Community Legal Workshop: Get Free Attorney Help With DREAMer Deferred Action Forms
- Seattle/Des Moines Community Legal Workshop: Get Free Attorney Help With DREAMer Deferred Action Forms
- NWIRP places two members on key Shriver Center Leadership Program
- Breaking News: Border Patrol Policy Change Important Victory for Border Communities
- Granger Community Legal Workshop: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- Omak Community Legal Workshop: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- Bellevue Community Legal Workshop: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- Spokane Community Legal Workshop: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- Yakima Community Legal Workshop: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- Everett Community Legal Workshop: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- Mattawa and Yakima Community Legal Workshops: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- Olympia/Lacey Community Legal Workshop: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- NWIRP Presents: An Evening at Wing Luke Celebrating 28 Years of Reuniting Families
- Walla Walla Community Legal Workshop: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- Pasco Community Legal Workshop: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- Seattle/Des Moines Community Legal Workshop: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- Wenatchee Community Workshop: Talk to an Attorney About DREAMer Deferred Action
- 10 Members of Congress Join Northern Borders Coalition Demand for Civil Rights Audit of Border Patrol
- Federal Judge Rules that Lawsuit Against Border Patrol Actions on Olympic Peninsula May Move Forward
- Granger Community Workshop: Do you qualify for DREAMer Deferred Action?
- Tacoma Community Workshop – Do you qualify for DREAMer Deferred Action?
- Wednesday: Press Conference - The DREAMer Deferred Action Program Unveiled
- Immigrant Rights and Civil Rights Leaders React to SB1070 Decision and Announce Renewed Efforts to Fight
- Federal Agency Rules Against Use of Border Patrol Agents as Interpreters
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Presents: 28th Anniversary Celebration
- NWIRP Challenges Local Law Enforcement Use of U.S. Border Patrol Agents as “Interpreters”
- Lawsuit Challenges Unconstitutional Stops and Interrogations by Border Patrol Agents on Olympic Peninsula
- Federal Judge Certifies Class Action Asserting Right to Counsel for Immigrant Detainees with Mental Disabilities
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project & Partners Target “Asylum Clock” in Class Action Lawsuit
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Presents: An Evening at Wing Luke, Celebrating 27 Years of Reuniting Families
- Minor Changes to "Secure Communities" Do Not Address Inherent Problems with the Program
- Man Nearly Deported Awaiting Asylum Decision for Sixteen Years
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Celebrates 27 Years of Service to Washington State Immigrants and Refugees
- DHS Agrees to Pay $400,000 to U.S. Citizen, Army Veteran, Unlawfully Detained by Immigration for Over Seven Months
- Federal Court Rules in Favor of NWIRP Client, Reaffirms Protections for Immigrant Survivors of Domestic Violence
- Immigrants Win Right to Representation
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project & Center for Justice Achieve Settlement in Case of Immigrant Detained Unlawfully
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project & Partners File First Class-Action Lawsuit On Behalf of Immigrants with Mental Disabilities
- United States v. Arizona racial profiling law
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Legal Voice, Latina/o Bar Association of Washington, National Employment Law Project and ACLU of Washington Unite to Praise Washington Supreme Court Decision Protecting the Integrity of the Court System
- NWIRP to receive national recognition
- NWIRP to Celebrate 25 Years of Serving Immigrant Communities
- NWIRP E.D. Jorge Baron on KUOW 94.9
- NWIRP Wins "Moving Mountains" award from Office of Crime Victims Advocacy
- NWIRP wins City of Seattle Human Rights Award
- Federal Appeals Court Rules For Jamaican Gay Man and NWIRP Client, Finds “Pattern or Practice” of Persecution Against Gay Jamaican Men
- Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Challenging Unreasonable Delays Granting Citizenship
- U.S. Citizen and Army Veteran Spends Nine Months In Detention While U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Denies Detaining Citizens
- NWIRP Expresses Its Opposition to Planned Expansion of DHS Detention Center
- Matt Adams Wins National Excellence in Litigation Award