Highway checkpoint fallout reaches Rep. Dicks
By Randy Trick, Peninsula Daily News
FORKS – The first terrorism checkpoint in the Northern Olympic Peninsula has spurred complaints and concerns that are reaching as far as Washington D.C.
U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks’ office received “a number of complaints and inquiries” Friday from constituents in the Forks area, said an aide to the congressman, D-Belfair.
Customs and Border Protection agents manned a roadblock on the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 101 north of Forks on Thursday morning.
They stopped some motorists to ask about their citizenship and birthplace.
The agents detained seven illegal immigrants, taking them to a detention center in Tacoma.
Dicks called Forks Mayor Nedra Reed about the situation, said George Behan, the congressman’s spokesman, on Friday.
Reed said that when Dicks visited Forks a few weeks ago, she told him she wanted him to work on immigration policy.
She told him that a policy that is “workable, viable, and structured” is important “so that people don’t have to live in fear.”
She told him Friday that her primary concern was the way the checkpoint invoked fear within Latinos living in Forks.
“We have worked hard to build relationship with Latino community,” Reed said.
“I do not want to see this action taken by the federal government impact the relationship we’re building.”
Reed said she was assured by the agency that it would provide the Latino community with the seven people’s names, which are typically not made public.
“I was encouraged that the border patrol will let us know who was picked up,” Reed said.
Behan said the Congressman “has questioned whether this is the best use of border protection resources.”
Behan said Dicks planned to pass along to Customs and Border Protection some of the comments and concerns he has received.
“If there is a specific terrorist threat or legitimate information suggesting terrorist activity, there could be a cause for this type of search,” Behan said.
“But Customs and Border Protection staff shouldn’t function as immigration enforcement officers,” he added.
When the agency was reached after the checkpoint was taken down Thursday, Robert Kohlman, a field operations supervisor in the agency’s Blaine office, declined to say whether specific information or threats had prompted the checkpoint.
More checkpoints in Clallam County are planned in the coming months.
Just say nothing
Daniel Perez, intake and outreach coordinator, with the Tacoma-based Northwest Immigration Rights Project, said in light of Thursday’s action, he plans to visit Forks and help inform the Latino community.
“People are not obligated to answer immigration official’s question about status,” Perez said.
“People can remain absolutely silent . . . the key is not to engage in any conversation.”
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