Despite their lack of authority to enforce federal immigration law, local law enforcement agencies often collaborate with Border Patrol in immigration enforcement matters, calling them to the scene of a traffic stop or arresting individuals and holding them without legal basis until the federal immigration authorities can take them into custody. Under § 8 U.S.C. 1357(g), a limited program exists whereby local law enforcement agencies can receive immigration enforcement training and certification from the federal government; however, the overwhelming majority of law enforcement agencies that engage in these enforcement activities do so without any such training and certification (click here for a list of certified agencies). Border Patrol agents for their part often solicit informal “assistance” or “cooperation” from local law enforcement agencies without regard to agencies’ lack of authority to engage in such conduct. The cases in this section illustrate the problematic nature of such cooperation, which often results in abusive policing, racial profiling, and a breakdown of trust between immigrant and minority communities and local law enforcement agencies.
On October 7, 2013, the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (“MIJA”) and four representative plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana against Colonel Tom Butler, sued in his official capacity as acting Chief Administrator of the Montana Highway Patrol, and Attorney General Tim Fox, sued in his official capacity as head of the Montana Department of Justice.
In 2012, ABLE filed a federal court complaint on behalf of two Hispanic married couples from Norwalk, Ohio. The married couples, traveling in the same car and returning from work at a local nursery, were stopped by the Wakeman Police Department early one morning. Without reasonable suspicion or cause, the Wakeman police officer contacted the U.S. Border Patrol. When Border Patrol agents arrived at the scene, they proceeded to interrogate and verbally harass the occupants of the car. The individuals were aggressively removed from the car, handcuffed and taken to the Sandusky Bay Station. At the station, the individuals were then placed in a room where they were harassed and interrogated by ten to twelve different agents over the course of the day.
This is a First Amendment case brought against DHS, CBP, and certain named officials for their interference with the plaintiffs’ right to protest, observe and record activity at the U.S. Border Patrol’s checkpoint on Arivica Road near the Arizona-Mexico border. Although CBP claims that this checkpoint is temporary, it has been in continuous existence for seven years. Many residents of Arivica must drive through the checkpoint every day to reach jobs, schools and shops. The plaintiffs are members of an Arivica, Arizona community organization which organized a “checkpoint monitoring campaign” in response to a number of complaints of civil rights abuses by agents at the checkpoint. A number of these incidents were detailed in an Administrative Complaint filed with DHS Office of Inspector General and DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
On June 23, 2011, Mr. Vargas was stopped by the Anacortes, Washington police, allegedly for failing to use his turn signal. He provided a valid license, registration, and proof of insurance. Despite this, the police officer called BP to check on Mr. Vargas’s immigration status. After failing to find any immigration or criminal history on Mr. Vargas, the agent instructed the police officer to detain Mr. Vargas, despite lacking any legal basis for doing so. The police officer transported Mr. Vargas to the city jail, where he waited in a cold prison cell until a BP agent arrived and took him to a nearby BP station. The agents on duty attempted to pressure him into signing various documents without first explaining their contents to him. Mr. Vargas was eventually transferred to the Northwest Detention Center, where he was detained for almost ten weeks.
Plaintiffs Samuel Ramirez Rangel, Leticia Gonzalez Santiago, and Jose Solis Leon were harvesting shellfish when two Kitsap County deputy sheriffs noticed them speaking Spanish. The deputies waited for the group to exit the beach and followed their truck, eventually pulling them over to allegedly investigate a defective headlight and their shellfish licenses, prolonging the traffic stop to question the plaintiffs about their immigration status. The deputies called BP to inform them they had stopped some individuals they suspected of having immigration issues, offering to detain them until Border Patrol could arrive.
Fifteen individuals and two workers’ rights organizations brought this lawsuit to challenge BP agents and three local law enforcement agencies and their officers for their systematic racial profiling of Hispanic residents in three Ohio towns. Plaintiffs have been stopped and questioned about their immigration status while driving, pumping gas, or walking their children home from school. Plaintiffs allege that BP agents engaged in a pattern or practice of initiating these stops solely on the basis of their Hispanic appearance and did not have any reasonable suspicion or probable cause to suspect that they were present without authorization when they did so. Additionally, the suit alleges that BP encouraged local law enforcement agencies to profile Hispanics and detain them for BP.