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ACLU: Border Patrol should stay away from immigrant children not engaged in criminal activity

(SAN DIEGO) – According to the ACLU, the Border Patrol’s arrests of students on their way to school earlier this year underlines the need for that agency to adopt new policies to protect the rights of immigrant children.

The ACLU yesterday issued a letter to government officials 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. The raid 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, the 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.

Both groups feel the 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 ACLU and the American Friends Service Committee have 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.