Feds to explain recent border checks


Country reporter

The San Juan County Council was preparing to invite the person in charge of policing the area’s international border to Friday Harbor with the hope of gaining a better understanding about the recent series of citizenship inspections at the Anacortes ferry terminal.

That invitation proved unnecessary. The region’s chief deputy of U.S. Customs and border inspections beat the council to the punch and offered to meet with the council on its home turf on March 18.

Deputy Chief Joe Giuliano of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Blaine-based Customs and Border Patrol division, will discuss with council members issues related to those inspections. That discussion was scheduled to take place as part of the weekly meeting of the council. Meetings of the council are open to the public.

For updates of the meeting, which occurred after the Sounder went to press, go to www.islandssounder.com

Eight people, including a family four from Friday Harbor and a long-term resident of Orcas Island, were taken into custody the first week in March on possible immigration violations following back-to-back border inspections at the Anacortes ferry landing. Those eight were among passengers on three domestic-only sailings originating in the San Juans who were questioned about their citizenship upon arrival in Anacortes.

Those eight, according to Giuliano, will soon be deported back to their home country of Mexico after waiving the right to contest their detention. He noted that all eight were taken into custody for alleged immigration violations – a civil infraction – and none were the subject of any known criminal case.

Earlier, on March 11, the council sought the advice of Sheriff Bill Cumming in understanding how boundary lines are drawn between state, local and federal authority and limits of each. Cumming said the local sheriff’s department and federal authorities have a long and effective history of cooperating on criminal cases, but that the same does not hold true on immigration-related issues in large part because such laws are civil in nature. In general, he said, the department is provided information about immigration-related cases on a “need to know” basis.

Council Chairman Howie Rosenfeld, Friday Harbor, said there are four priorities that the council would like Giuliano to address; civil rights, racial profiling, local economic impact and notification if islanders are apprehended as well as information regarding their whereabouts. Rosenfeld also expects Giuliano will field questions from islanders who attend the March 18 meeting.

“I can’t imagine he wouldn’t be open to questions from the public on this,” Rosenfeld said. “He seemed willing, and after all, he’s the one who offered to do this.”