Border Patrol Should Stay Away from Immigrant Children Not Engaged in Criminal Activity

Border Patrol’s arrests of students on their way to school earlier this year underline the need for that agency to adopt new policies to protect the rights of immigrant children, the San Diego ACLU and American Friends Service Committee (“AFSC”) said in a letter sent to government officials today, Human Rights Day.

The ACLU and AFSC issued the letter recommending new policy after extensively examining the laws and policies involved in Border Patrol’s joint raid with San Diego Metropolitan Transit Service and the federal Transportation Security Administration on the Old Town Transit Center on May 15, 2009, which resulted in the near-immediate deportation of three students who were on their way to school.

The letter contains three specific recommendations. First, Border Patrol should refrain from stopping unaccompanied children and questioning them regarding their immigration status if they are not engaged in criminal activity. Second, Border Patrol should ensure that unaccompanied children complete a telephone call with a trusted adult after being arrested. Finally, Border Patrol should not subject children who are living in the United States to a form of expedited removal that prevents them from obtaining a hearing before an immigration judge.

“It will not enhance public safety for Border Patrol to randomly apprehend minors riding public transportation who are not reasonably suspected of engaging in any criminal activity,” wrote Pedro Rios, San Diego Area Program Director, American Friends Service Committee, and Kevin Keenan, Executive Director, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

These recommendations are based on well-established principles of constitutional law, Border Patrol’s own regulations, and the inherent need of government agencies to preserve family unity.

The groups requested a meeting with Michael Fisher, Chief Border Patrol Agent for the San Diego Sector, and will be asking San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit Service to support the call for reform.

Letter to Border Patrol Requesting Policy Change re: Children