60 demonstrate in Forks against Border Patrol checkpoints, detention of two youths
By Jim Casey and Leah Leach, Peninsula Daily News
Article published Aug 31, 2008
FORKS — About 60 people protested Saturday in the wake of U.S. Border Patrol detention of Forks residents, including a recent high school honors graduate and a 16-year-old boy.
"Border Patrol Terrorizes Children!" read one sign held outside the Transit Center on South Forks Avenue.
"Honk if you support immigration," said another.
"Edgar lost his chance," said a sign held by Nenita Bocanegra.
"He was sent back to Mexico," Bocanegra said. "I got sad . . . and we made a sign for him."
Edgar Ayala, a Forks High School athlete who graduated with honors in June, was arrested during a Border Patrol checkpoint near Forks on Aug. 20, said Forks Mayor Nedra Reed.
Since then, he has been returned to his father in Mexico, she said Friday.
He had been in the United States since infancy, she added.
Meanwhile, 16-year-old Carlos Bernabe was in federal detention in the Seattle area, said Border Patrol, spokesman Michael Bermudez in Seattle.
Lorie Dankers, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle, said she was not certain which facility the youth was in.
The boy could be released to a relative, Reed said, but his stepmother "would not go to pick him up because she was an illegal.
"I found out that his family, out of fear, have returned to Mexico," she said.
Bernabe's father was in Mexico, she said, and the teenager had lived in the United States.
"He's scheduled to appear before an immigration judge to determine what to do with this child," Reed said.
"What I've been trying to do for the last two days is get hold of someone and find out if they will release him to someone in town.
"I have someone who will take care of this child."
Stepped up enforcement
The Border Patrol is stepping up enforcement with checkpoints at three places on the North Olympic Peninsula, said Joseph Giuliano, deputy chief border patrol agent last week.
One is on U.S. Highway 101 at Milepost 198 between Forks and Beaver. Checkpoints reportedly were set up there on Aug. 20 and last Monday.
Another location is on state Highway 104 near the Hood Canal Bridge. Border Patrol agents ran a checkpoint there for about five hours on Aug. 22.
The third location — which had yet to be used last week — is on U.S. Highway 101 south of Discovery Bay in Jefferson County, Giuliano said.
At the checkpoints, agents are looking for terrorists and illegal immigrants, he said.
Agents also arrest people who have outstanding warrants.
Giuliano said the Peninsula is receiving additional attention from the Border Patrol because its long, remote coastline makes it difficult to secure by boat.
"When we can't cover all that ground up front, we rely on checkpoints," he said.
Said Bocanegra, "I want it to stop, because there's a lot of people who have been separated and who are scared.
"There are a lot of kids that are scared, that have seen families separated," she said.
"Some kids don't want to go to school because they are afraid."
The arrests of the two young people again brought to a head again the issue of illegal immigration to the West Ends of Clallam and Jefferson Counties.
Here, migrant workers harvest salal for florists as avidly as loggers fall trees for mills.
Tanya Ward, one of the organizers of Saturday's protest, is a member of the Hoh tribe who told Peninsula Daily News that illegal immigrants are treated with the same unfairness she said is shown to Native Americans.
"I don't think it's right for them to be taken out of their homes when their children are here and they're not doing anything wrong," she said.
Ward said she wanted to propose that Forks declare itself a sanctuary city.
Such cities — an undetermined number of them across the country, starting with San Francisco in the 1980s — discourage municipal employees from enforcing or aiding enforcers of federal immigration laws.
To that degree, Forks already is such a city, Reed said, because city police "are not immigration officers. We are not employing any immigration activities on our own."
However, Forks officers will provide assistance and backup when asked to do so by Border Patrol officers or agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security.
"That's our mandate; that's our job; that's our role and responsibility," she said.
More poignant and perhaps more pressing, Reed said, is the fear that pervades Forks's Hispanic community as more Border Patrol officers take up duties on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Forty-five officers currently work out of the Port Angeles headquarters.
Although it is against the agency's policy to search for illegal immigrants in schools and churches, some parents are afraid to leave their homes to buy school supplies for their children, Reed said, or to send them to school when classes resume.
Others have taken to shopping for groceries in the small hours of the morning to avoid what they fear are roaming Border Patrol officers, she said.
Afraid she'll lose 'Auntie'
Reed said she'd had a 7-year-old girl in her office Friday, weeping because she feared her "Auntie" would be arrested and deported.
And while the mayor said the parents of such children place them at risk, "My God, what happens to the kids?"
Concerning declaring Forks a sanctuary city, Reed said no one officially had posed the idea to her or the city council.
"I'm not sure what our legal standing would be," she said.
But she was certain the issue of illegal immigration has divided Forks citizens.
"You have those people who are trying very hard to live up to their moral perception that they need to do something to help these folks," she said.
Other residents are in favor of deporting illegal immigrants immediately, she said.
Reed angry at Congress
As for the Border Patrol, Bermudez said agents have no choice but to arrest people they find are in the country illegally.
"We are obligated to take action," he said. "We swore an oath.
"It would be malfeasance if we did not do our job. It would subject us to punitive action."
Forks was the scene of a march by 700 people protesting immigration policies on May 1, 2006. Since then, its city council has had presentations from the Border Patrol on its policies and performance.
Reed, however, is angry — at Congress.
"We need a federal immigration policy," she said.
"Our federal government and our Congress have got to do something about illegal immigration.
"We hired them to do a job. We hired them to make the tough decisions."
As for the fate of Carlos Bernabe, Reed said Friday, "I've been waiting for a call all day and I've received nothing. It's so frustrating.
"We'll begin the process again on Tuesday."
Reporter Jim Casey can be reached at 360-417-3538 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or email@example.com