February 26, 2018 – Over the years, we’ve seen repeated examples of how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) abuse their authority when it comes to treating immigrants and protecting individual privacy. This week, two articles from the New York Times showed CBP unrestrainedly using their authority within the 100-mile zone; meanwhile, enforcement officials are reportedly detaining Central American minors without providing prompt court dates.

Border Patrol making wide-ranging use of 100-mile zone

According to Ron Nixon at the New York Times, CBP is operating on property without permission, setting checkpoints deep within the U.S., asking U.S. citizens for their papers, and more “under a little-known federal law that is being used more widely in the Trump administration’s aggressive crackdown” on immigration.

Most Americans are unaware that two-thirds of the U.S. population – about 200 million people – live within the 100-mile border zone where Border Patrol is authorized to conduct deportation enforcement operations, according to the ACLU. CBP is allowed to conduct warrantless searches of people and property within this zone, an authority that has been deemed abusive and “unreasonable” even by the conservative National Review.

Below are some of the New York Times’ examples of how CBP has used and overused this authority under the Trump Administration:

  • In Florida, New York, and Washington State, Border Patrol agents are boarding buses and trains to questions riders – mostly American citizens – about their immigration status.
  • In New Hampshire, residents were arrested at immigration checkpoints on a major interstate highway where Border Patrol conducted what the ACLU described as illegal drug searches. One checkpoint was set up before a local marijuana festival.
  • In Maine, concerns of racial profiling were raised when Border Patrol boarded a commercial bus for an immigration inspection.
  • In Fort Lauderdale, a viral video showed Border Patrol agents boarding a Greyhound bus, asking passengers to show their papers, and arresting a Jamaican grandmother in her 60s.
  • In Texas, a rancher found a surveillance camera placed by Border Patrol on his property without permission. By law, officers can go without owner permission onto private property within 25 miles of the border, but the ranch is more than 30 miles from the closest border.
  • In Washington, an undocumented father with no criminal history and his DACA-mented son were arrested on a Greyhound bus.

CBP’s wide-ranging reach is especially important considering that the Trump Administration wants to hire thousands more ICE and CBP officers — even though Politico once called the Border Patrol “America’s most out-of-control law enforcement agency”. A series of damning reviews and federal reports suggest Border Patrol corruption is underreported.

View “Know Your Rights” material and learn more about the 100-mile border zone here.

Lawsuit: Officials holding minors indefinitely and illegally

A pending lawsuit from the New York Civil Liberties Union alleges that federal agencies are detaining minors indefinitely and unjustifiably.

The Trump Administration has begun detaining certain immigrant minors who have fled Central America to seek asylum in the U.S., claiming that they are involved with gangs. But some of these minors have been held for months without a court hearing, while others remain detained even after they are determined not to be a safety risk. Evidence of their gang ties have been scant as well, and sometimes consist of little more than the fact that they have tattoos.

Several instances of immigrant minors being detained indefinitely include:

  • A 17-year-old minor from El Salvador has been held in federal custody since July, and was detained for five months before receiving a hearing. An immigration judge declared him to be not a safety or flight risk, yet he’s still not been released.
  • 40 immigrant children have been detained indefinitely in violation of a trafficking victims law requiring unaccompanied minors be released from detention promptly and placed in the least restrictive appropriate setting.
  • A freshman minor was detained during an operation which arrested 205 young adults. At his hearing, his attorneys were unable to view video evidence of him allegedly flashing gang signs, and (according to his mother) he did not have any tattoos as police claimed.
  • A separate lawsuit last year led to the release of 27 of 29 unaccompanied Central American minors  who were arrested on suspicion of gang involvement but were not provided prompt hearings.

Said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, the drawn-out detention of young immigrants is “a witch hunt” and the consequences for the minors is “huge, irreparable harm.”

The goal of America’s Voice Education Fund is to create the public momentum for reforms that will transform a dysfunctional immigration system into a regulatory system that works.