Report: Border Patrol Engages in Troubling Transportation Raids

U.S. Border Patrol agents in the state of New York are engaging in constitutionally questionable transportation raids, according to a recently released report from the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York University Immigrant Rights Clinic and Families for Freedom.

Based on data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the report authors determined that the majority of the New York Border Patrol’s arrests between 2006 and 2009 were made by agents who raided trains or buses and asked passengers for proof of citizenship status. According to the report, this is an abuse of the border patrol’s power because it strays from the agency’s mission of protecting the border and leads to improper questioning and detention of U.S. citizens.

Of 2,743 transportation raid arrests made during the years examined, less than 1 percent of detained individuals had crossed the border within 72 hours of being taken into custody, according to the report. More than three-quarters of those arrested had been in the country for more than a year, and 12 percent had lived in the United States for longer than a decade. These numbers suggest the agency is suffering from mission creep in the New York area. Furthermore, the report stated that transportation raids sometimes violate constitutional due process and Fourth Amendment protections.

“Upstate New York is not a Constitution-free zone,” said Udi Ofer, advocacy director for the NYCLU. “The Border Patrol takes an extremely broad view of its mission that would disturb most Americans, who expect to be able to go about their daily lives without having to prove their citizenship status to armed government agents. These ‘show me your papers’ tactics belong in a police state, not the world’s oldest democracy.”

The report recommended that the Border Patrol cease all transportation raids and called on the state government of New York to more closely monitor the agency’s operations.

Anecdotal evidence suggests transportation raids have been stepped up recently in Florida, the Miami Herald reported in August. The newspaper interviewed an immigration advocacy center worker, who said the organization has seen a noticeable uptick in deporation cases stemming from transportation arrests. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told the Herald that transportation raids have not been increased and are legal.