The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU-WA) and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) [advocacy websites] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] Thursday alleging that US Border Patrol [official website] agents are routinely stopping vehicles to check the immigration status of Latinos without legal justification. The class action lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington [official website] on behalf of three individuals who claim they were stopped and interrogated based solely on their ethnicity. The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration:
that it is unlawful for Border Patrol agents to stop a vehicle or participate in a vehicle stop without a valid search or arrest warrant, unless the Border Patrol agent has a particularized reasonable suspicion based upon specific and articulable facts and rational inferences therefrom that an occupant of the vehicle is unlawfully in the United States.Plaintiffs also seek an injunction prohibiting agents from stopping vehicles without a suspicion that the occupant is in the US unlawfully and an injunction prohibiting further stops "until each Border Patrol agent on the Olympic Peninsula has received training as to what constitutes reasonable suspicion for Border Patrol to stop a vehicle or for Border Patrol to participate in a vehicle stop." A Border Patrol spokesperson has denied the allegations [Seattle Times report].
Last month Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] accused the US Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] of discrimination and rights abuses [JURIST report] along the border between Mexico and the US. AI claims that discriminatory practices and harsh policies responding to immigration by US officials results in the deaths of hundreds each year, and that as many as 5,287 died crossing the border between 1998 and 2008. The report comes as a general movement has been sweeping the country toward tougher enforcement of immigration policy. The trend began with a controversial law in Arizona [JURIST news archive], and similar legislation has passed in Alabama, Georgia, Utah, South Carolina and Indiana [JURIST reports]. The US Supreme Court heard arguments [JURIST report] on provisions of Arizona's law earlier this week.