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ACLU Sues Border Patrol for Stops in Pacific Northwest

By Edward Tan, JD on May 01, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The American Civil Liberties Union has had enough of the U.S. Border Patrol's antics in Washington's Olympic Peninsula. The ACLU has sued the agency for unjustifiably stopping people based on race .

The ACLU is seeking class-action status for their lawsuit, Reuters reports. They claim the "Border Patrol's actions have created a climate of fear and anxiety." Among the accusations, two Latino and a black man claimed they were subjected to racial profiling. Two of men are correctional officers and one was in uniform at the time of his stop.

But is the Border Patrol allowed to racially profile suspects?

Official agency policy "strictly prohibits profiling" based on race or religion, Richard Sinks, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said.

However, U.S. law allows federal Border Patrol agents to temporarily detain and question anyone entering the country, regardless of citizenship.

People stopped can be asked by agents to present documents, such as passports and other proof of legal entry. They can also be asked questions about the length and purpose of their stay, and be subjected to searches if necessary. Agents are given discretion to turn people away based on their findings.

The ACLU is alleging that the Border Patrol has overstepped its authority. The instances of racial profiling stated in the complaint occurred on U.S. soil. Some of the claims include agents following victims to their homes and approaching stopped vehicles while holding holstered weapons.

Law enforcement officers are allowed to stop people and vehicles when they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. For Border Patrol agents, the standard is no different. The Department of Justice has also given guidelines to federal agents regarding the use of race in stops.

The ACLU's lawsuit against the Border Patrol was filed in a federal district court in Seattle.

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