by Love and Rage Team
UTICA – According to witnesses disembarking from trains at Utica’s Union Station, several US Border Patrol agents were patrolling the platforms, allegedly asking about the citizenship of several people of color.
This is part of a routine, yet troubling, policy for US Border Patrol as the agency claims that its jurisdiction can be enforced anywhere within 100 miles of the US border. The 100-mile border zone was adopted by the US Justice Department in 1953. At the time, there were 1,100 agents. Today there are over 21,000 and there is a recruiting drive to add more per the Trump administration’s policies involving border security and immigration.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, about 200 million Americans live within 100 miles of the borders of the United States. The ACLU admonishes that while the 100-mile wide zones are not “Constitution free”, agents have dismissed civil liberties concerns.
While most people answer the questions, which the agency considers a “consensual, nonintrusive conversation”, there are reports of thousands of people being taken from trains and buses since the policy began. In some instances, agents refused to allow legal representation to hand cards to those being removed and detained. The ACLU also notes that, in practice, the agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their authority. For instance, agents frequently do not limit interactions to immigration inquiries and proceed to carry out investigations and illegal searches.
There’s also the story of a woman from Ogdensburg who was tasered by two border patrol agents in the summer of 2015.
Border agents are not obliged to provide details or cause for a stop, and anyone has the right to remain silent in the face of questions, but doing so can prolong the duration of the stop prompting other kinds of actions.
An area resident who was accompanying a foreign exchange student at the station also confirmed the presence of five to seven Border Patrol agents, with dogs. During the search, she learned from one of the agents that they were from the Oswego Border Patrol Station and that while they weren’t allowed to engage in this type of surveillance during the Obama administration, efforts like this would be occurring much more frequently.
Despite the perceptions of policy under the Obama administration, more deportations occurred than during any previous administration signaling a very active approach. Because of the constant accusations that the Obama administration was lax on immigration, an AP fact-checking article demonstrates that while there may have been variances in priority attributed to nonviolent offenders, deportation numbers were still setting records.
Another resident, upon hearing about the presence of US Border Patrol agents, made their way to the station to ask about the situation. She was told by a 30-year employee at Union Station that it has always served as a training location.
This story was tipped and sourced by several members of the community in the Utica, NY-area. Photographs were also submitted by them.