'Terror in Twilight' report shows impact of Border Patrol activity in Forks

December 13, 2013

Seattle University School of Law students tell the story of how Border Patrol enforcement affects the lives of Latinos living on Washington's Olympic Peninsula in a new report released by the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality.
"Terror in Twilight: The Real-Life Legacy of U.S. Border Patrol on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State" (PDF) documents community members who have been stopped by Border Patrol and addresses the agency's participation in routine local policing matters, and the heavy involvement of local law enforcement agencies in primary immigration enforcement. The report is also available in Spanish (PDF).

Forks is a small community located on the Olympic Peninsula, best known as the setting for the "Twilight" books and movie series. Although this region has no land border and minimal border crossing activity, it has been subject to heavy immigration enforcement by U.S. Border Patrol, in the name of preventing terrorism.

The report began as the student project of Eleanor Doermann '12 and Sarah Haywood '13 as part of the Civil Rights Amicus and Advocacy Clinic within the Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic. They continued their work after the semester ended with the assistance of interns Shantrice Anderson '14 and Erika Koch '14 under the auspices of the Korematsu Center. Doermann led the project and was the primary author.
It centers around the experiences of members of the Forks Latino community who were stopped by Border Patrol between 2008 and 2012, based on both public records and years of documentation by Forks Human Rights Group members. The research team traveled twice to Forks to interview community members, who demonstrated tremendous courage in coming forward to tell their stories of fear, sadness, divided and traumatized families, and ultimately hope.

Although Border Patrol practices on the Peninsula have been the subject of previous publicity and legal action, the intention of this particular report is to provide a history and overview to place these practices in context and to illustrate the human impact and legacy. 

The consequences have at times been tragic, as in the case of Benjamin Roldan Salinas. In 2011, Benjamin drowned in the Sol Duc River as he tried to flee from Border Patrol officers who showed up, purportedly to interpret, while Salinas and his wife were stopped by the U.S. Forest Service to check their salal harvesting permit.

The report acknowledges there have been positive changes since then, through grassroots efforts and litigation, including the recently settled ACLU lawsuit against Border Patrol for unwarranted traffic stops, and the Department of Agriculture ruling and Northwest Immigrant Rights Complaint that brought an end to the practice of Border Patrol officers acting as interpreters for other law enforcement agencies. It is now important to hold the gains that have been made, lest they be lost in the politics of immigration reform.

The report makes many recommendations, including that Border Patrol should stop the practice of detaining workers in the woods without probable cause, and should no longer stop people under the pretext of checking for salal harvesting permits and other civil non-immigration matters.

At the national level it calls for immigration reform measures that do not include any form of arrest quotas, and that clearly differentiate border surveillance from interior immigration enforcement. 

At the state level, the report recommends approval of the Trust Act, HB 1874, by the Washington State legislature when it is reintroduced in 2014. The bill would help rebuild trust between immigrant communities and local police by establishing statewide standards for responding to Secure Communities detainer requests, similar to what the recently passed King County Council resolution has accomplished here at the county level.

Finally, the report asks for President Obama to invoke his executive authority and issue an order to stop deportations until an immigration reform bill is passed.