Friday, 11.11.2011, 12:59am
Echoes problems identified all across northern border
NEW YORK CITY/DETROIT — A report released on Nov. 9 by the New York University School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic (NYU), the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and Families for Freedom (FFF) systematically confirms reports of northern border patrol agents engaged in pervasive racial profiling during sweeps of domestic train and bus lines in upstate New York. The majority of these sweeps occurred far away from the Canadian border, on domestic bus and rail lines that stayed entirely within the United States.
"This new data demonstrates clearly what we've seen all across the northern border — Border Patrol is more interested in arrest rates and scare tactics than in effective law enforcement," said Nadia Tonova, director of the National Network for Arab American Communities at ACCESS. "Targeting individuals based on race is unacceptable and ineffective. In America, you shouldn't have to fear interrogation by a government agent just because of the way you look."
Despite their declared purpose of protecting the Canadian border, 73% of those detained were from Latin America. 89% of those arrested by Border Patrol were reported as of "medium," "dark" or "black" complexion.
The experience of Professor Torres Saillant, a U.S. citizen who teaches at Syracuse University, was typical. He described being questioned numerous times on domestic Greyhound buses in New York. Professor Saillant reported that Border Patrol agents instructed him that he needed to "carry his papers," and would single out only the Latino passengers on the bus for questioning.
Customs and Border Protection initially refused to release the requested information as provided by the Freedom of Information Act, which forced community groups to sue the federal government for access.
Unconfirmed reports have since surfaced indicating the Border Patrol may have abandoned the problematic searches along the northern border due to public pressure.
"We're glad to hear that the federal government may have recognized the deep civil rights problems of mass transit sweeps. However, this issue isn't about a single policy — it’'s about an agency that is simply out of control. From New York to Washington, we've documented patterns of abuse, harassment, and humiliation in all manner of Border Patrol operations. Customs and Border Protection needs a major shake-up to ensure that they're spending our tax dollars on law enforcement, not on profiling and abuse," said Lidia Reyes Flores, Director of Latino Family Services in Detroit.
In Michigan, profiling against American Muslims has been widespread according to rights groups, which led U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit) to launch a federal investigation into the conduct of agents at the Detroit U.S.-Canada border.
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