Activists denounce imprisonment of immigrants

Border patrol agents stray out of their jurisdiction to interrogate immigrants about their immigration status on trains and buses in a northern region of New York State, and most of those they detain are Latinos, according to a report completed by the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the NYU School of Law, along with the New York Civil Liberties Union and the organization Families for Freedom.

The authors of the report, published on Nov. 11, explained that it is based on data acquired through the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

Agents leave the Canadian border to arrest undocumented immigrants, the report found. Between 2006 and 2009, a total of 2,743 people were imprisoned by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents found on trains and buses stopped in Rochester, NY. Approximately 73% of immigrants imprisoned were Latinos.

The authors of the report say that the function of CBP is to monitor the border and the people who enter and leave the country, but the CBP maintains that it has the right to enforce immigration law within 160 kilometers (100 miles) of the border.

Jenny Burke, a spokeswoman for the CBP, said that the organization constantly revises its strategies and adjusts them to improve the effectiveness of its operations. “Additional resources and employees along the northern border in recent years have improved border security,” she said in a statement.

The spokeswoman declared that the raids on trains and buses are based on intelligence data that alerts them about threats or risks to security. The organization recently pointed out that it had reduced the immigration raids on public transportation in the northern region of the state.

Nancy Morawetz, professor at the Immigrant Rights Clinic, said during a press conference that Border Patrol agents were utilizing their authority to conduct unjust interrogations on the immigration status of people in order to imprison them.

The report, called, “Justice Derailed,” criticizes the agents who board buses and trains in the northern part of the state to ask for documents from African Americans, Asians and immigrants who appear Latino. It says the agents use the tactic to meet a monthly quota of detentions.

The report also indicates that 76% of the imprisonments that took place between 2006 and 2009 in the Rochester bus station involved people who had resided in the United States for more than one year. Approximately 1% of the detainees were in the country for less than three days and less than 1% were caught when they were secretly crossing the border.

The authors of the report also criticized the fact that the agents interrogated and imprisoned immigrants on local roads. The report mentions the case of Peter Mares, a 50-year-old Mexican born in Tijuana, but American by nationality, who was stopped and interrogated on a road in the city of Sodus for no apparent reason.

Mares said to the Associated Press that the agent asked him where he was born. He felt humiliated. Mares was never opposed to showing his identification papers and simply asked the agent why he wanted it. The agent didn’t answer him.

After an interrogation that lasted more than half an hour, Mares was freed when the authorities verified his identification papers.

Abraham Paulos, director of Families for Freedom, expressed concern about the collaboration between local police and the CBP to arrest immigrants.

Approximately 97% of the population in New York lives within 160 kilometers (100 miles) of the border [including the coastline].

Click here to read the “Justice Derailed” report in PDF format at the New York Civil Liberties Union website.

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