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U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan announced today that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has reached a formal settlement with three men represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) over litigation regarding traffic stops on the Olympic Peninsula in Western Washington. Under the terms of the settlement, the Border Patrol will affirm its continued commitment to constitutional policing through a letter sent to the ACLU of Washington and the NWIRP. Additionally, within the next year, Border Patrol agents stationed at the Port Angeles Station will receive refresher training on traffic stops that require “reasonable suspicion” under the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Finally, for the next 18 months, the Border Patrol will provide certain forms they use to document traffic stops to the ACLU and the NWIRP, providing the groups with information regarding the frequency and the Border Patrol’s rationale for conducting such stops. The forms provided to the groups will not include any information identifying the drivers or occupants of the vehicles involved in the stops.
“This settlement is confirmation that we can both ensure the safety of our borders and protect all members of our communities in a constitutional manner,” said U.S. Attorney Durkan. “I appreciate the dedication and hard work of the Border Patrol, who are both the first line of defense against danger and the first to welcome millions of our visitors. I commend all the attorneys who worked to reach a settlement that moves us forward.”
In April 2012, three plaintiffs, Jose Sanchez, Ismael Ramos Contreras, and Ernest Grimes, filed suit against the Border Patrol, United States Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), and the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) alleging that Border Patrol agents were making traffic stops on the Olympic Peninsula without reasonable suspicion. The federal government denies that the Border Patrol has a practice of unlawfully stopping vehicles on the Olympic Peninsula and denies wrongdoing with respect to any of the stops involved in the litigation.
Today’s settlement requires both sides to pay their own attorney’s fees and does not involve any monetary payment to the plaintiffs. It brings the lengthy litigation to a conclusion and prevents the further expenditure of federal resources. The settlement agreement is posted on the U.S. Attorney’s website here.
The litigation was handled for the U.S. Attorney’s Office by Assistant United States Attorney Rebecca Cohen, and for the U.S. DOJ by Timothy Belsan from the Office of Immigration Litigation.