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Sanchez v. Homeland Security

Update September 24, 2013: The parties filed a joint stipulation to dismiss the lawsuit because they have reached a settlement agreement which requires Border Patrol to provide training to agents in Port Angeles regarding the Fourth Amendment, provide reports documenting every vehicle stop to plaintiffs’ counsel for 18 months, and issue a statement to the ACLU and NWIRP affirming their commitment to comply with the Fourth Amendment.

Three residents of the Olympic Peninsula filed the class action challenging the U.S. Border Patrol’s practice of stopping vehicles and interrogating occupants without legal justification. Filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the lawsuit says that the Border Patrol’s suspicionless stops on the Peninsula violate constitutional rights, and it seeks a court injunction barring such unlawful stops in the future. The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) and the ACLU of Washington represent the residents.

The plaintiffs have experienced unwarranted stops and interrogations in a variety of settings, all while going about their daily lives. Agents provided flimsy pretexts or no reason at all for the stops. Some stops appear to be based on nothing but the Border Patrol agents’ perception of the plaintiffs’ ethnicity or the color of their skin. The incidents are typical of troubling encounters which many residents of the Peninsula have had with Border Patrol agents.

  • Jose Sanchez is a resident of Forks and correctional officer for the Olympic Corrections Center. In 2011 in Forks, Border Patrol agents stopped the vehicle he was in, saying its windows were too dark – even though the driver’s side window was not tinted. The agents questioned Sanchez – a U.S. citizen – about where he was from.
  • Ismael Ramos Contreras is a resident of Forks and former student government body president at Forks High School. In 2011 at Port Angeles, he was traveling in a vehicle with several teenage friends to pick up tuxedos for a Quinceañera (15th birthday) celebration when the vehicle was stopped by four Border Patrol agents. One agent tried to take the key out of the ignition, so the driver handed him the key. Agents interrogated the boys about their immigration status, but never provided a reason for the stop.
  • Ernest Grimes is a resident of Neah Bay, a correctional officer at Clallam Bay Corrections Center, and a part-time police officer. In 2011 near Clallam Bay, a Border Patrol agent stopped the vehicle in which Grimes was traveling, approached with his hand on his weapon, and yelled at Grimes to roll down his window. Without offering a reason for the stop, the agent interrogated Grimes about his immigration status. Grimes, who is African American, was wearing his correctional officer uniform at the time.