Breaking News: Federal Agency Rules Against Use of Border Patrol Agents as Interpreters

May 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 
Exciting news. In the first-ever decision of its kind, a federal agency today ruled that the
U.S. Forest Service discriminated against Latinos on the Olympic Peninsula by
using Border Patrol agents as interpreters
and as law-enforcement support in routine matters. The USDA’s civil rights office ordered the U.S. Forest Service to make
significant policy changes at the national level
and to take additional steps locally at Olympic National Forest offices.
The complaint was prompted last May, when M.N. and her longtime male partner were
pulled over by a Forest Service officer on the Olympic Peninsula. The Forest
Service officer called Border Patrol agents before even interacting with M.N.
and her partner, engaging in racial profiling. When the officer interrogated the
couple, they answered
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Forest. Photo by
beataT1i
his questions, but later, when a Border Patrol car pulled up to the scene, they were scared and tried to flee. The Forest Service officer grabbed M.N., holding her captive by her hair. M.N.’s partner ran into the forest and drowned after attempting to cross a swiftly moving river. The Forest Service then turned M.N. over to Border Patrol
agents, who held her in an immigration facility in Port Angeles, WA and placed
her in deportation proceedings. Northwest Immigrant Rights Project filed the
complaint on behalf of M.N. and convinced federal officials to drop the
deportation case against her.
M.N. and her partner weren’t the only ones to undergo discrimination by the Forest Service. The decision outlines many witness accounts of horrific behavior by the Forest Service in the Forks, WA and Olympic National Forest areas towards the Latino community.
The decision helps vindicate the complaints made by community members
in the Olympic Peninsula about the discriminatory practices of the U.S. Forest
Service.
Highlights of findings:
U.S. Forest Service has been ordered to:

- Develop and implement a fair language access policy nationally.
- Develop and implement a policy of law enforcement data collection to reduce       instances of racial profiling nationally.
- Post notices informing the public that the service has been
found to have discriminated on the basis of national origin, providing
information on how to file civil rights complaints locally.
- Require that the forest service officer who stopped M.N. and his direct supervisor
complete 40 hours of civil rights training within 60 days of the ruling.

The decision comes less than a month after we filed a separate complaint with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security regarding the use of Border Patrol agents for
interpretation assistance by other law enforcement agencies throughout
Washington State. That complaint remains pending. Read the press release for more information.
Thank you again for your support in this work – ensuring that the rights of all residents of our
state are protected.
In solidarity,
Jorge L. Barón, Executive Director

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