Tentative deal reached on Border Patrol lawsuit

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

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The federal Department of Justice and American Civil Liberties Union of Washington have reached a tentative agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging that Border Patrol agents illegally pulled over Latinos and an African-American man on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The settlement is contingent on a final decision from the Justice Department, is expected by Aug. 21.

Doug Honig, communications director for the ACLU of Washington, said Tuesday that he could offer no details on the tentative settlement agreement, which must go through a Department of Justice approval process.

“We anticipate this to take several weeks,” Honig said.

Litigation had been on hold since February, by agreement with both sides, so the parties could reach a settlement, according to a joint status report filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

The lawsuit was filed last April on behalf of two Latino men from Forks and an African-American man from Neah Bay, all who alleged they were targeted for traffic stops by Border Patrol agents who sought to learn their immigration status.

Attorneys from the ACLU, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and Seattle law firm Perkins Coie represented the three men, who are all natural-born U.S. citizens.

The lawsuit sought an injunction prohibiting the Border Patrol from stopping vehicles or participating in traffic stops until agents receive training on what constitutes reasonable suspicion to a stop a vehicle or be involved in a traffic stop.

The lawsuit lists the plaintiffs as Ismael Ramos Contreras, an 18-year-old Forks High School senior; Ernest Grimes, a Neah Bay resident who works as a corrections officer at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center and a part-time Neah Bay Police Department officer; and Jose Sanchez, a Forks resident and corrections officer for the Olympic Corrections Center.

Lesley Hoare, a Forks resident and an organizer with the Forks Human Rights Group, said her group has not been involved in the lawsuit but that she is anxious to hear what the final settlement will bring.

“I'm looking forward to hearing more, and I'm looking forward to getting some justice to the complaint,” Hoare said Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleges that Border Patrol agents stopped Contreras — who, with four others, were on their way to pick up tuxedos for a quinceanera July 2011 in Port Angeles — and asked Contreras and his friends about their immigration status.

Contreras also was stopped by a Border Patrol agent outside the Clallam County District Courthouse in Forks, and asked where he lived and where he was born, according to the lawsuit.

Grimes, while wearing his corrections officer uniform, was stopped in his car by a Border Patrol agent in October 2011 near Clallam Bay and asked about his immigration status, the lawsuit alleges. Grimes said he never was told why he was stopped.

Sanchez was stopped in his car by Border Patrol agents in summer 2009 and fall 2011, the lawsuit alleges, and was asked both times about his immigration status.

Hoare said she does not personally know the three plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit, though she said she is familiar with similar stories.

“I personally am fully behind the lawsuit because I've seen it happen,” Hoare said.

“Something needs to change about it, so that's what we're hoping we'll see.”

Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 25. 2013 6:01PM
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