- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2008

SEATTLE | The U.S. Border Patrol has been stopping cars and checking drivers’ nationalities on a highway near a small town on the Olympic Peninsula, some 56 miles from a ferry terminal that connects to Canada’s Vancouver Island.

The roadblock near Forks and two others in the area are part of the Border Patrol’s expanded operations to secure a part of the state with a porous border.

But the checks have rattled the community, particularly after a well-regarded recent high school graduate was deported.

“Folks don’t really understand … why not in Blaine or on the Canadian border?” Forks Mayor Nedra Reed said. “Why here? Why Forks?”

Ms. Reed said that the first roadblock, set up in 2007, also created a stir in the community, and this one “created a level of anxiety that’s really unprecedented.”

The roadblocks produced 16 arrests recently, and 14 of those were immigration-related, while two were for outstanding warrants, according Officer Michael Bermudez, spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Blaine sector.

“The Border Patrol’s primary concern is to enforce immigration law, and I know in the past, we haven’t had checkpoints in the areas,” Officer Bermudez said. “Today, we have the manpower and resources, and the Border Patrol is going to implement that strategy.”

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Border Patrol has increased its presence on the nation’s northern border, adding more than 1,100 agents - or four times its presence before the attacks.

“We want to be able to control what’s going on in our borders,” Officer Bermudez said.

The waterways and scarcely populated coastlines of the Olympic Peninsula have been used for decades by smugglers trafficking in everything from Prohibition-era booze to potent British Columbia marijuana.

Two of the three roadblocks are located on U.S. Highway 101, one outside of Forks and the second near Discovery Bay in Jefferson County; the third is located at the Hood Canal bridge that connects the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas, Officer Bermudez said.

At the road checkpoints, Officer Bermudez said agents usually ask drivers different types of questions to gauge their status in the U.S., including questions about citizenship.

The Border Patrol has a jurisdiction of about 100 miles from the border, Officer Bermudez said.

“Pretty much all of Washington is within the area where border checks are authorized,” said Lisa Seifert, an attorney and member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Immigrants are “going to get driven further underground. The results of these enforcement steps are keeping people away from schools, doctors,” Ms. Seifert said.

In Forks, the arrests set off a small protest in the town of 3,200 people after it was learned a minor and a recent high school graduate had been arrested and now both face deportation.

Ms. Reed said that people in Forks are divided on the immigration issue, with some supporting the federal agency’s actions, others not.

But in a community where timber and farm labor involves many Latin American immigrants, the Border Patrol’s crackdown has touched a nerve.

“I don’t think it’s fair to pick up the Hispanic people and deport them. I just think it’s wrong,” said Tanya Ward, a member of the Hoh tribe, who organized a protest two weeks ago and plans a second later this month. “It’s not the land of the free. Nobody wants to go anywhere anymore; they don’t want to deal with Border Patrol.”

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