'Terror in Twilight ' — Seattle University study focuses on confrontations between Latinos and Border Patrol officers in Forks [ Read the full study here. ]
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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FORKS — The relationship between Latinos and U.S. Border Patrol officers in Forks has improved, according to an academic study released Thursday.
But state legislation should be passed to further protect the Spanish-speaking population from unwarranted stops and questioning by agency law enforcement personnel, it said.
“Twilight in Forks: The Real-Life Legacy of U.S. Border Patrol on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State” was prepared by the immigrant-advocacy organization Forks Human Rights Group, the Ronald Peterson Student Law Clinic at the Seattle University School of Law and the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University.
Forks is best known for the fantasy trilogy the Twilight saga, the authors said in the report's background and summary statement.
“Members of the Latino community in Forks, however, live with the very real fear, not of vampires or the supernatural, but of the United States Border Patrol.”
Students reviewed the details of 251 encounters involving 502 community members.
Documentation was provided by Forks Human Rights Group and law enforcement agencies, and was drawn from media reports, published accounts, court documents and student interviews with community members between 2008 and December 2012.
“Border Patrol's conduct on the Peninsula has improved over the last year in response to the efforts of many different people,” according to the report.
“At the time of the release of this report, community members report that they feel safer gong about their daily lives, but the personal scars and distrust of law enforcement remains.
“The final chapter has not yet been written.
“It will be determined by the future shape of immigration reform.”
A sore point with the Latino community has been the use of Border Patrol interpreters by law enforcement, which has resulted in arrests for federal immigration violations unconnected with the original reasons for the stops.
Some North Olympic Peninsula law enforcement agencies have said they use their own interpretation services, not Border Patrol agents.
The U.S. Forest Service, which is responsible for law enforcement in Olympic National Forest, where West End Latinos often harvest salal for pay, stopped asking the Border Patrol for language assistance in June 2012.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, stopped the practice as discriminatory on the basis of a complaint by the wife of Benjamin Roldan Salinas.
She with her husband when the couple were detained May 14, 2011, by a Forest Service officer after a day of picking salal in the national forest.
The couple had a legal permit, but the officer sought interpretation assistance from the Border Patrol.
Both ran, and Roldan Salinas fell into the Sol Duc River and drowned.
In a statement at a telephone news conference Thursday on the study, lead author Eleanor Doermann said the report is “centered around stories” of community members' interactions with the Border Patrol.
Among those stories was that of Roldan Salinas' wife, Crisanta, who said Thursday during the news conference that her husband's body was not discovered for 21 days after he disappeared.
“Since then, I have been alone taking care of my children, and this has impacted us greatly,” she said.
“It's difficult for me to understand what happened and explain to my children why he is not here anymore.
“It has been really difficult for me becoming a single mother, going to work alone, taking care of the household, paying the bills and the baby sitter, etc.”
The authors of the footnoted study also called for the passage of state House Bill 1874, which would prevent a non-Border Patrol law enforcement officer from detaining someone on an immigration retainer if the person is eligible for release.
That provision would cover instances in which, for example, a person was jailed on misdemeanor and freed but then might be subject to arrest by the Border Patrol.
State and local law enforcement also would not be able to arrest or detain anyone based on an administrative immigration warrant.
In addition, law enforcement officers would not make a person available to be interviewed by Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless that person is provided an opportunity to be represented by a lawyer and consents to the interview in writing.
State Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam, whose 24th District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and about a third of Grays Harbor County, said he had not read the bill, which will be considered in the 2014 legislative session, but was leery of its impact.
“In general, immigration is a federal issue, and I would be a little concerned about interfering with cooperation with federal agencies,” Hargrove said.
State Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege, both D-Sequim, were unavailable for comment Thursday.
Border Patrol spokesman Colin Burgin of the agency's Blaine Sector public affairs office said Thursday he forwarded queries about the report to the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters but did not expect an immediate response.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: December 12. 2013 10:57PM