By Sandra G. Leon
A new report ordered by a judge reveals that Border Patrol agents in Michigan and parts of Ohio arrested far more US citizen and documented Latinos than undocumented immigrants trying to enter the country illegally.
The report, titled The Border’s Long Shadow: How Border Patrol Uses Racial Profiling and Local and State Police to Instill Fear in Michigan’s Immigrant Communities, released by the ACLU of Michigan, found that only 1.3% of arrests by Border Patrol agents in the area included undocumented immigrants attempting to enter the country illegally. Nearly half of the arrest involved either US citizens or properly documented immigrants.
Critics argue that federal immigration officers abuse their powers that allow them to stop anyone within 100 miles of an international border and conduct warrantless searches. The entire state of Michigan is considered to be within 100 miles of the Canadian border, or one of the Great Lakes, which serve as international borders even though Lake Michigan does not share a shoreline with Canada.
Between 2012 through 2019, the Detroit sector of the Border Patrol arrested 14,142 individuals from 132 different countries. But although Latinos make up only 16.8% of Michigan’s foreign-born population, the study shows Latinos were 84% of noncitizens apprehended by the Border Patrol in Michigan and northern Ohio.
“Everyone is entitled to the protections that our Constitution provides that includes undocumented immigrants,” Monica Andrade, an ACLU attorney who co-wrote the report said. “It’s not just about undocumented immigrants, the data shows that one in three people that have been stopped are U.S. citizens, another 13% were here lawfully and the only reason that they were pulled over is because of the color of their skin, or based on their speaking standards.”
The report describes Border Patrol agents’ use of “complexion codes” to document the complexion of people they apprehend, according to the report. More than 96% of the people arrested were described as “Black, Dark Brown, Dark, Light Brown, Medium Brown, Medium, or Yellow.”
Most of those apprehended were are stopped while driving and in 77% of cases, an Border Patrol agent cites a person’s alleged reaction to seeing a marked Border Patrol agent or vehicle as a basis for suspicion.
“The records show that whatever a person does when driving near a Border Patrol vehicle is used as a pretext to pull them over,” the report reads. “A person’s ‘Hispanic’ appearance frequently leads to investigation and arrest.”
The report also included emails between agents saying “happy hunting” referring to arrests.
“This happens when police treat immigrant communities as less than human,” Andrade said. “Something as simple as a traffic stop can be traumatizing and tear families apart.”
The report found that more than 80% of people arrested by Border Patrol were long-term Michigan or Ohio residents between the ages 7 and 26, and two-thirds of the arrests areas that do not share a shoreline or international waterway.
The ACLU has asked the US Department of Justice and US Department of Homeland Security to prohibit profiling based on perceived race, religion, national origin, gender and English proficiency. The ACLU is also calling for state anti-racial profiling legislation and legislation to provide eligibility for a state driver’s license to all residents, regardless of immigration status.
The report details the case of Arnulfo Gomez, a properly-documented permanent resident of 30 years, who was pulled over by a Michigan State Police trooper for a loud exhaust on his car. His wife and brother-in-law were also in the car. The driver provided the police officer his driver’s license, registration, proof of insurance, and also the identification of the other passengers in the car. His wife is undocumented.
Another state trooper who had a Border Patrol agent riding along with him was called to the scene. The agent questioned Gomez and his wife, but then let the three go free.
“There was no reason for him to pull us over,” Gomez states in the report. “As soon as he saw we are brown, he was after us. Then they called Border Patrol right away. Everything that happened to us was wrong.”