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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy


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Most people think the Border Patrol just patrols the border. But Nina Bernstein reports in the New York Times this morning that the agency is involved in doing checks on Amtrak trains going between major cities like Chicago and New York that don't actually go by the border. Border Patrol officers roam the trains asking people for their papers documenting US citizenship or a legal right to be in the US. The story reports that many people - particularly students - have been removed from the trains even though they had proper documentation. In one case, a Pakistani student was detained for two weeks before officers confirmed his papers were correct. Officers claim that answering is voluntary, but passengers are not informed of this and some report being woken up from sleep with a flashlight pointing in their eyes asking to see their documents. As one US citizen noted in the story, "To say I didn't want to answer didn't seem a viable option."

Critics say the program may be worse than Arizona.

"At least in Arizona, you have to be doing something wrong to be stopped," said the woman, a citizen of Chinese-American descent who said her Mexican boyfriend was sleeping when an agent started questioning him. "Here, you're sitting on the train asleep and if you don't look like a U.S. citizen, it's 'Wake up!' "

The Border Patrol claims because citizens of 96 countries were arrested, that racial profiling could not be happening. That strikes me as a pretty weak response to the question of how officers are choosing who to question. I think Cary Jensen has it right:

"It's turned into a police state on the northern border," said Cary M. Jensen, director of international services for the University of Rochester, whose foreign students, scholars and parents have been questioned and jailed, often because the patrol did not recognize their legal status. "It's essentially become an internal document check."

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  1. Kerry's Avatar
    I can vouch for this. A Mexican client of mine was apprehended by ICE on an Amtrak Train traveling from Chicago to Boston several years ago and put in proceedings. He told me that they specifically targeted the foreign-looking people on the train.
  2. abstract1's Avatar
    This is sad!
  3. Another Voice's Avatar
    They want to put the antis at easy and show they are doing their job, the worst part is that the very same people they are seeking to get credit from will never acknowledge their work, to them 100 % deportation of all immigrants equals success anything else is failure. Janet Napolitano has said it her self in congress she is not sure what the definition of secure border they are working on...
  4. George Chell's Avatar
    Communism has come to America! Long live the Union of American Socialist Republics! ICE = KGB!
  5. Tundra/Desert's Avatar
    As much as SB 1070 happens to incense me personally, I see little wrong with the Border Patrol questioning people within their jurisdiction. The Feds should know what they are doing; sadly the article indicates that they don't always, and this needs to be fixed. However, every legal immigrant signed off, explicitly or otherwise, on a number of legal provisions as a condition of her/his admission, and the chance to be inspected by the Patrol within the 100-mile zone is one of them. State or local police having the right to question anyone at any time and detain people indefinitely is not.

    I want to be able to go running/hiking/biking/swimming without having to drag documents with me everywhere. If the "everywhere" is shrunk by the 100-mile swath along the U.S. border, that's unfortunate but acceptable, seems like a reasonable compromise for the sake of security, more so if information about the inspections is well known in advance. If, however, I can't do, say, a triathlon in whole states without breaking a law, however technically, that's a problem. That's not what I signed up for when I sent the DS-230 and the thousands of dollars in fees.
  6. USC's Avatar
    This is a good example of the anti-immigrant policies perpetrated by Junior which have not been dis-avowed by Obama. Since, 2001, INS has claimed that the Border Patrol has Jurisdiction in the NYC area as it is within 100 miles of International Waters. The OED and other dictionaries define border as thus:

    "the line that separates one country, state, province, etc., from another;"

    So, when INS in the NY Times article claims:

    "Asked if agents could question people in Times Square, which like most of the nation's population centers is within 100 miles of international waters, Mr. Pocorobba replied, "Technically, we can, but we don't." He added, "Our job is strictly cross-border."

    That position is simply wrong. NYC, per the dictionary meaning, does not have an International Border merely because it is a seaport.
  7. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    I thought international borders start like 200 miles from the shore, so my that definition, no, NYC is not a border city. And you gotta be crazy to ask people who look foreign for ID in Times Square - who are you going to ask... everyone?
  8. George Chell's Avatar
    Big Brother is watching you..UASR...Union of American Socialist Republics!! Substitute ICE for KGB!!
  9. Kalifornian's Avatar
    Great! It is not racial profiling. Can i change my brown skin to something else ?
  10. George's Avatar
    "Great! It is not racial profiling. Can i change my brown skin to something else ?"

    Wont help you! If it is not racial profiling..I dont think it is..they have not arrested citizens yet, as far as I can see. However, it is indeed Communist America..substitute ICE for KGB! Long live the Union of American Socialist Republics! Pretty soon they may detain me for writing this but I dont care!
  11. USC's Avatar
    Here is Nina's first person account (published just subsequent to the first story referenced by Greg) as to what actually happens on the train:

    The INS has to stop this illegl behavior. Obama needs to get them under control. Soon, they will be once again claiming that any city that has an International Airport is a border city and within the 100 mile jurisdiction of the Border Patrol. Enough is enough!
  12. Max's Avatar
    It is a bad thing when You allow the Border to stand wide open for 20 years and have to resort to this kind of behavior, But waking people up in this Country is not a bad thing!

    I woke up in the United States Marine Corp bootcamp and I had never been woke up that way in my life, before or since!

    I think every American Citizen should be woke up to the fact that Our Country has been overrun by illegal aliens, and Thousands of people are here from every Country in the World on expired visa's as if this is not bad enough,

    Our Very Own Leaders have Outsourced the Manufacturing Base of Our Country while telling us it was a Good Thing, And people are worried about being woke up on a Train?

    Well Mr. Border Patrol, You can wake me up anytime You want and I'll shake Your Hand!
  13. LFWF's Avatar

    Sure Max, and they will shake your hand and move on. After all you don't have brown skin.A citizen with brown skin on the other hand may find no handshake available. A legal permanent resident may be hauled off for not carrying a green card. It may take 2 weeks of prison before they believe him/her. But why do you care, for you it is just a handshake. So much for your belief in the "constitution".
  14. USC's Avatar

    Re-read Max's post, he is barely educated. Not worth wasting your time. In order to be a Marine you have to graduate High School. It would appear that he is neither.
  15. USC's Avatar
    The NY Times is taking a job well done to even greater heights. There is now an editorial on Nina's story:

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