Border Patrol maps three sites for highway checkpoints on North Olympic Peninsula

By Tom Callis, Peninsula Daily News

FORKS Two of three designated locations for U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints have been used in the past five days to look for illegal immigrants and terrorists, a Border Patrol spokesman says.

One of the locations is on state Highway 104 in Jefferson County near the Hood Canal Bridge, which was blocked for about five hours midday Friday.

The second is on U.S. Highway 101 at Milepost 198 between Forks and Beaver in Clallam County, where border officers watched traffic Monday from 3:30 p.m. until about 9 p.m.

The third location which has yet to be used is on U.S. Highway 101 south of Discovery Bay in Jefferson County, said Joseph Giuliano, deputy chief border patrol agent.

Giuliano said officers will set up four to six more times at any of the three locations by mid-September.

In Western Washington, Border Patrol checkpoints have been occurring on a regular basis outside of Sumas and at the Anacortes ferry terminal, he said.

Prior to Friday, the last checkpoint on the North Olympic Peninsula was near Forks in March 2007.

Giuliano said an additional checkpoint location is expected to be added on state Highway 20 near Sedro-Woolley in Skagit County.

Five arrested near Forks
On Monday north of Forks, agents arrested five people for suspected illegal immigration and a man for having an outstanding misdemeanor warrant.

Last Friday about a mile west of the Hood Canal Bridge, six people were arrested for suspicion of illegal immigration.

The immigration arrests on Monday included a couple from Mexico, a mother and daughter from Guatemala, and a boy from Mexico.

The names couldn't be released due to privacy laws.

They were all processed at the Federal Building in Port Angeles.

The couple from Mexico and the Guatemalans were released, but are awaiting a court date.

Giuliano said the couple from Mexico were released because they have three children who are U.S. citizens, and there were no immigration facilities that could accommodate them at the time.

Giuliano said the Border Patrol will release parents if their children, who are U.S. citizens, cannot be accommodated at an detainment facility or if they cannot be taken care of by other family members.

Court required
The parents who entered the country illegally are still required to attend their court date and go through deportation proceedings, he said.

The mother and daughter from Guatemala were released because the father, who was in the car with them, is a U.S. citizen.

Giuliano said Border Patrol agents confiscated $600 of illegally harvest salal from the family.

If the mother and daughter don't show up for their court date, the father can lose his citizenship, Giuliano said.

The juvenile male is being housed in a hotel in Tukwila while he goes through deportation proceedings, he said.

Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Peregrin said Don Jaime, 55, of Port Townsend was arrested at the checkpoint on the outstanding warrant.

Peregrin said Jaime had a warrant out for his arrest for driving with a suspended or revoked license and was found to have under 40 grams of marijuana on him.

More personnel, funding
Giuliano said additional personnel and financial resources from the Department of Homeland Security during the past four years have enabled the Border Patrol to conduct the checkpoints on the Peninsula.

"This is something that should have been happening in the last 80 years," he said. "We didn't have the human resources.

"Now we're in a position to do what we should have been doing."

Michael Bermudez, Border Patrol public affairs agent, said there are 1,200 agents on the U.S. northern border.

Bermudez said it's a 246 percent increase over 2001, when there were 340 agents on the border with Canada.

Giuliano said highway checkpoints on the Peninsula will remain a regular occurrence, though he couldn't comment on the amount agents expect to do in the next few months or years.

Due to safety concerns for Border Patrol agents and drivers, when and where checkpoints occur depends on weather and traffic conditions, he said.

Two checkpoints were planned on Aug. 19 and 20, but were canceled because of poor weather.

Giuliano said the Peninsula is receiving additional attention from the Border Patrol because its long, remote coastline makes it difficult to secure by boat.

"When we can't cover all that ground up front, we rely on checkpoints," he said.

Having one route on and off the Peninsula U.S. 101 is efficient, Giuliano said.

"Anything that lands on shore will necessarily have to use that route," he said.

Right to remain silent
At the checkpoints, Border Patrol agents ask each individual his or her nationality and citizenship, Giuliano said.

The Border Patrol agents direct a vehicle to the side of the road for additional questions and to validate documents if they find anything suspicious about the individuals inside.

Giuliano wouldn't clarify how they determine suspicion, but said the Border Patrol's process is "scientifically established."

Matt Adams, Northwest Immigration Rights Project legal director, said no one is legally required to answer questions unless they are entering the country.

"Within the boundaries of the U.S., people don't have the burden of proving that they were allowed in," he said.

"You can't be arrested for failure to answer the questions."

Adams said those who don't want to answer questions at a highway checkpoint should request to have an attorney present.

Giuliano said the intention of the checkpoints are to catch criminals and to create a deterrent.

"We want to instill in the minds of the bad guys that we could show up at any time and lead them to determine what we are going to do next," he said.

"I think we are having an effect."

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Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or tom.callis@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 26. 2008 9:00PM
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