Over Two Thirds Of Drivers Arrested By U.S. Border Patrol In Michigan Were Stopped For Looking At Squad Cars Funny

Cars line up at U.S. Border Patrol highway checkpoint.
Cars line up at U.S. Border Patrol highway checkpoint.
Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images (Getty Images)

Detroit is home to the busiest land border crossing in North America, responsible for roughly 27 percent of all merchandise trade between Canada and the U.S. Naturally it has a robust U.S. Border Patrol presence, but the lengths that this federal law enforcement agency will take to stop anyone who even looks at them funny should be horrifying to every civil liberty-loving American.

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This entire report just released by the American Civil Liberties Union about the U.S. Border Patrol’s actions in Michigan is just so jaw-dropping awful I had a hard time figuring out where to start. How about we kick off with this bit from the Detroit News:

More than 98% of Border Patrol arrests in Michigan and a small portion of Ohio targeted longtime Michigan residents of Latin American descent rather than people trying to illegally enter the United States from Canada, according to an American Civil Liberties Union report.

The report, produced after a federal judge ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection to turn over arrest records from 2012 to 2019, shows just 1.3% of arrests involved people attempting to illegally enter the country. It also showed that agents made arrests hundreds of miles from international borders and nearly half of all people arrested were U.S. citizens or documented people.

See, the agency considers the entire state of Michigan to fall under its jurisdiction, despite being empowered to arrest people only within 100 miles of an international border. The Border Patrol counts the Great Lakes as natural international borders, but even then there are plenty of places in Michigan that are more than 100 miles from the border. Lake Michigan, for instance, is nowhere near Canada.

Two-thirds of arrests were made more than 100 miles from a border or international waterway, and nearly half of all of those arrested were citizens or documented people.

While Hispanic people make up only 17 percent of the state’s population, they accounted for 85 percent of arrests. A Border Patrol spokesman told the News that the agency does “...prohibit the consideration of race or ethnicity in law enforcement, investigation and screening activities, in all but the most exceptional circumstances.” Except that is clearly not the case, considering this from the report:

Border Patrol agents allegedly use “complexion codes” to describe people they’re apprehending, according to the report. More than 96% of those arrested are described as “Black, Dark Brown, Dark, Light Brown, Medium Brown, Medium or Yellow.”

Most are stopped while driving and in 77% of cases, an agent cites a person’s alleged reaction to seeing a marked Border Patrol agent or vehicle as a basis for suspicion.

“The records show that whatever a person does when driving near a Border Patrol vehicle is used as a pretext to pull them over,” according to the report. “A person’s ‘Hispanic’ appearance frequently leads to investigation and arrest.”

In more than 30% of cases, people had a passport or license that “police agencies either didn’t know were legitimate or didn’t care,” the report states

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You’d think the agency with the largest slice of the federal law enforcement budget — $17 billion in the most recently — would be able to identify legitimate papers of immigrant people and folks legally in Michigan, but nope!

As a Michigan resident, I’m appalled at what my fellow citizens and newly arrived individuals are going through, but as an American I am incensed. We’re spending $17 billion on a federal agency that is meant to stop folks sneaking across the border, and instead they are wasting their time with mostly law-abiding brown people who might have looked at their patrol car funny.

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Hey, maybe 77 percent of folks reacted “suspiciously” to seeing a U.S. Border Patrol agent because they’re thinking “Oh no, here we go again. I’m just trying to pick up some Coney dogs man.”

Just a thought.

Managing Editor of Jalopnik.

DISCUSSION

autojunkie
Autojunkie

I always look at them funny.

I lived my whole life in Michigan. It was weird as hell for me to see Border Patrol cars near my parent’s house along Anchor Bay. Prior to 9/11, I’ve never seen a Border Patrol car in Michigan. I know I live on an international border, but we never really had Border Patrol driving around here until after the federal laws changed regarding the 200 mile rule. Now they pretty much have jurisdiction over all of Michigan.

So yeah. Native Michiganders will look at the patrol cars weird probably for the same reason I do.