The Border Patrol could have communicated its role and objective to the public better when its North Olympic Peninsula personnel increased more than fourfold in 2007, and the agency will keep trying.
That's the message two U.S. Border Patrol spokesmen gave to a crowd of about 30 people April 8 at the Pioneer Park Memorial Park clubhouse, 387 E. Washington St.
"We could have done a better job, but we are willing to attend these meetings. I hope we can project a professional image and become part of your community," said Acting Supervisory U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jaime Castillo.
The forum was a response to checkpoints set up on U.S. Highway 101 in August and September 2008 as well as an increase from five Border Patrol agents at the Port Angeles station to 24 in the past 18 months.
Border Patrol Agent Chris Dyer said there's an appearance of the suspension of probable cause but the Border Patrol must conform to the U.S. Constitution and it does.
Court rulings allow primary inspection for a short time on a road that leads from a border, he said.
Agents can put up checkpoints "a reasonable distance" from the border, which has been determined to be 100 miles, Dyer said.
But he said it's "preposterous" to call that a "100-mile Constitution-free zone."
"We do not profile. This is what happens," Dyer said.
As the vehicle approaches the checkpoint, they look it over and observe the driver's demeanor, he said.
Then they ask non-intrusive questions such as place of birth but ask for a driver's license to establish identification not citizenship, Dyer said.
The Patriot Act added no authority to the Border Patrol's powers, he said.
Dyer said it's "a misconception" that most people entering the country illegally are coming here to feed their families and find work.
"That's a vast majority but not all," he said.
Dyer said the Port Angeles station caught 192 people trying to enter the country illegally last year although he didn't give a similar breakdown of those arrests.
The Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team recently sent out information about Mexican drug cartels that have begun operating on the North Olympic Peninsula, he said.
Agents at Border Patrol's Bellingham station also board buses, Dyer said, adding that's how "D.C. sniper" Lee Malvo was caught.
Malvo was a Jamaican here illegally, Dyer said.
Abu Mezer, who plotted to bomb the New York City subway, was caught three times between Blaine and Bellingham in 1996, he said.
"We will not be a weak link, not on my watch. It's a national strategy," Dyer said.
Castillo said you can expect Congress to approve an increase in the Border Patrol's air, sea and land capability and you'll see more of that with the 2010 Olympics in British Columbia approaching.
"I think people should support us because we are here to protect you," he said.
The forum was hosted by the Clallam County Democratic Club. The Clallam County Democratic Central Committee on March 21 unanimously adopted the same resolution regarding the Border Patrol as the Jefferson County Democrats.
It calls for a suspension of the expanded Border Patrol activity and moving the force away from the border until its "legality, utility and constitutionality" has been determined by Congress and the courts.
The resolution now will go before the state Democratic Central Committee on
Reach Brian Gawley at email@example.com.
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