MARCH 04, 2009
In an effort to make buses a “safe haven” for illegal immigrants, public transit officials in a Washington county near Canada have posted signs directing passengers to ignore Border Patrol agents.
Jefferson County Transit officials recruited a civil rights group to install the signs inside public buses amid immigration crackdowns that have greatly increased the region’s Border Patrol presence. Agents regularly conduct roadblocks on state highways, monitor ferry runs and board buses. So far, more than 1,000 illegal immigrants have been arrested.
The federal agents were brought into Jefferson County last summer after Homeland Security officials determined the northwest Washington peninsula presents a national security threat. With two international ports of entry, the area is porous and frequently used by drug traffickers and illegal immigrants who could present a terrorist threat.
The presence of federal immigration officers has angered local authorities, however. Last month Jefferson County’s sheriff refused to participate in the federal partnership to protect the nation because he objects to Border Patrol terminology for illegal immigrants (criminal aliens) and refuses to allow deputies to detain them.
Jefferson County transit officials believe that federal Border Patrol authority trumps a reasonable right to privacy on a bus. Their signs, created by the American Civil Liberties Union, advise all riders of their right to remain silent when questioned by a federal immigration officer.
Homeland Security officials point out that criminals operating illegally across our borders regularly use public transportation to leave the immediate border area and travel into the interior of the country. The Border Patrol checks public transportation to thwart those attempts.
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