Thursday, May 31, 2012

Agency: Using Border Patrol for translation assistance was discriminatory

Posted By on Thu, May 31, 2012 at 11:23 AM

We wrote earlier this month about how Border Patrol agents were showing up without being asked at police calls for service in Spokane. Border agents are also acting as translators so the police department doesn’t have to waste time or money on contract translators.

A federal agency released a ruling today that called the use of Border Patrol agents for translation discriminatory against Hispanics in one Western Washington case, according to the group filing a complaint.

The civil rights office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture ruled that the U.S. Forest Service discriminated against a Hispanic couple by calling the U.S. Border Patrol for “translation assistance.”

The incident occurred last May on the Olympic Peninsula when an officer from the Forest Service (which is a division of the Department of Agriculture) and a Border Patrol agent converged on a Hispanic couple to check if they had a permit for picking salal on national forest land.As the Forest Service officer was walking back to his vehicle to check the IDs given to him, a Border Patrol agent arrived, and the couple, unnamed in the proceedings, fled their car.

The man died trying to cross a river. The woman, who filed the complaint, was detained and later released. The proceedings say the Forest Service officer had called the Border Patrol for translation assistance after he saw her but before making the law enforcement stop.

The ruling found that the civil rights office “finds no evidence in the record that [the Forest Service officer] ever calls an agency other than [Border Patrol] for backup with Latino individuals” and that “current [Forest Service] practices provide inadequate protection against discrimination based on national origin.”

Read a copy of the civil right office's ruling here.  

A spokesperson for the Border Patrol’s Spokane office referred questions to the Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service.

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