Seven immigrants taken in terrorist traffic stop
March 24, 2007
Forks, WA - At approximately 9 a.m. on March 15 the U.S. Border Patrol was checking vehicles near mile post 198 on Highway 101 north of Forks. South bound traffic was being stopped in the south bound lane. Several officers and a dog were checking occupants and vehciles. Lonnie Archibald photo
by Evan McLean
U.S. Border Patrol rounded up seven allegedly illegal immigrants in its first traffic-stop checkpoint on the peninsula to “support enhanced national security efforts.”
Border Patrol agents stopped every driver moving south on U.S. Highway 101 north of Forks and asked if they were citizens of the U.S.
“It is unfortunate that these things have to occur but this is a time of war,” Forks Mayor Nedra Reed said. “I would stress that this was a Border Patrol operation and not an ICE stop.”
The reference to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement comes from a fervor of emotion quelling from the large Hispanic community in the Forks area. Shop owners and school teachers around town reported a disappearance of people around the community.
“I had very few students show up to school yesterday or today and the ones that did were crying,” said Layla Iranshad, Peninsula College English as a second language instructor. “Even the ones that are legal are incredibly worried because these people are their families and deportation splits them apart.”
Iranshad said she has gained the trust of Forks’ Hispanic community and has become a hub for telephone calls of concern and advice.
“I received phone calls from mothers asking me if it was safe to go to the Thrifty Mart to buy food,” she said. “Putting these people in a state of fear doesn’t help fight terrorism.”
Jerry King, owner of Alder Grove Trailer Park, said a lot of his tenants were concerned for the seven people who disappeared from Forks as a result of the Border Patrol stop. Border Patrol has not released the names of those taken to a federal detention center in Tacoma, where they will await removal proceedings.
“I think it’s a stupid move on their part,” King said. “I don’t agree that they have a right to say they are doing homeland security terrorist searches while terrifying this community.”
Reed said that the agents conducted themselves in a professional manner while most stops only took a few seconds. She said that she believes the nation needs more secure borders while updating immigration policy so that “people shouldn’t have to live in America with fear of being taken away.”
Iranshad went through the checkpoint twice, once with a blond friend and once with a Hispanic-American friend. She said she noticed a big difference in the types of questions they had to answer and amount of time stopped.
“The second trip took a lot longer because they asked significantly more questions,” she said.
More checkpoints are on the horizon for Highway 101. The specific locations are not advertised but all motorists are required to stop at the checkpoints. It is a felony to flee from a checkpoint. The Border Patrol unit came from Blaine and is a part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency with the Department of Homeland Security.