The American Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have settled a civil-rights lawsuit over allegedly illegal traffic stops by U.S. Border Patrol agents looking for undocumented immigrants on the Olympic Peninsula.
The settlement, announced Tuesday morning, does not award any damages or legal fees to the plaintiffs, and the Border Patrol does not acknowledge that it made illegal stops.
A DOJ news release said the Border Patrol ” will affirm its continued commitment to constitutional policing through a letter” to the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and the Northwest Immigration Rights Project. In addition, within the next year, agents at the Port Angeles Station will receive “refresher training on traffic stops” to ensure they abide by the 4th Amendment protections against illegal searches and seizures.
The Border Patrol will also provide the ACLU with traffic-stop information for the next 18 months, under the settlement agreement.
The proposed lawsuit was filed last year and named as plaintiffs three Olympic Peninsula men — all U.S. citizens — who claim they were targeted for traffic stops by Border Patrol agents as a pretense to check their immigration status.
They included Jose Sanchez, a Forks resident who works as a correctional officer at the Olympic Corrections Center; Ismael Ramos Contreras, who at the time was an 18-year-old senior and student-body president at Forks High School; and Ernest Grimes, an African-American Neah Bay resident who works as a correctional officer and part-time Neah Bay police officer.
Contreras said he was in a car with four others on their way to pick up tuxedos for a quinceañera — a traditional 15th birthday party — when the group was stopped July 22, 2011, in Port Angeles. He claims an agent took the car keys from the driver while four agents questioned Contreras and the others about their immigration status.
Contreras alleges he was questioned again in December outside the Clallam County District Courthouse, where a plainclothes agent approached and asked him where he lived and where he was born.
“Today’s settlement is significant because Border Patrol officially agreed to follow the Constitution and not racially profile Latinos and other minorities along the Peninsula,” said Sarah Dunne, the legal director for ACLU of Washington.