Most people think the Border Patrol just patrols the border. But Nina Bernstein reports in the New York Times this morning that the agency is involved in doing checks on Amtrak trains going between major cities like Chicago and New York that don't actually go by the border. Border Patrol officers roam the trains asking people for their papers documenting US citizenship or a legal right to be in the US. The story reports that many people - particularly students - have been removed from the trains even though they had proper documentation. In one case, a Pakistani student was detained for two weeks before officers confirmed his papers were correct. Officers claim that answering is voluntary, but passengers are not informed of this and some report being woken up from sleep with a flashlight pointing in their eyes asking to see their documents. As one US citizen noted in the story, "To say I didn't want to answer didn't seem a viable option."
Critics say the program may be worse than Arizona.
“At least in Arizona, you have to be doing something wrong to be stopped,” said the woman, a citizen of Chinese-American descent who said her Mexican boyfriend was sleeping when an agent started questioning him. “Here, you’re sitting on the train asleep and if you don’t look like a U.S. citizen, it’s ‘Wake up!’ ”
The Border Patrol claims because citizens of 96 countries were arrested, that racial profiling could not be happening. That strikes me as a pretty weak response to the question of how officers are choosing who to question. I think Cary Jensen has it right:
“It’s turned into a police state on the northern border,” said Cary M. Jensen, director of international services for the University of Rochester, whose foreign students, scholars and parents have been questioned and jailed, often because the patrol did not recognize their legal status. “It’s essentially become an internal document check.”
Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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