Report: Justice Derailed: What Raids on Trains and Buses Reveal about Border Patrol’s Interior Enforcement Practices (2011)

This report is the first-ever in-depth examination of the Border Patrol’s transportation raids in upstate New York. It paints a disturbing picture of an agency resorting to aggressive policing tactics in order to increase arrest rates, without regard for the costs and consequences of its practices on New Yorkers’ rights and freedoms. The report extends beyond transportation raids to other Border Patrol practices as well, raising serious concerns about an agency that appears to be driven by the belief that the regular rules of the Constitution do not apply to it.

American democracy was founded on the idea that people possess certain inalienable rights, among them the right to privacy and the right to move freely about the country. Throughout this nation’s history, Americans have never been required to carry identification papers proving their citizenship. “Show me your papers” is a statement posed to people living under oppressive regimes, not those residing in the world’s oldest democracy.

Anyone who has traveled on trains and buses through upstate New York in recent years has cause to question the federal government’s fealty to these core democratic values. Throughout central and western New York, armed Border Patrol agents routinely board trains and buses nowhere near the border to question passengers about their citizenship. They force certain people to produce documents proving their citizenship or immigration status. Passengers who cannot produce documentation to an agent’s satisfaction are subjected to arrest, detention and potential deportation.

These “transportation raids” occur many miles from the Canadian border or any point of entry into the United States. They do little to protect the border, but they threaten constitutional protections that apply to citizens and immigrants alike, invite racial profiling, tear apart families and burden taxpayers with the cost of detaining individuals who were arrested while innocently going about their business.

The transportation raids also serve as a window into the practices of an agency that, although charged with policing the border, abuses its authority through its unprecedented reach into the interior of the United States and the use of aggressive search and seizure procedures that do not comport with standards and expectations for domestic policing or interior immigration enforcement. While the full extent of the Border Patrol’s interior enforcement practices remains unknown, community groups have documented abuses of power that extend beyond the transportation system and into our state’s towns and villages. These concerns include complaints of Border Patrol agents wrongfully stopping, questioning and arresting individuals, including United States citizens, and engaging in improper enforcement practices in close collaboration with state and local police.

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