The U.S. Border Patrol has quietly scaled back its controversial practice of routinely searching buses, trains and airports for undocumented immigrants at transportation hubs along the northern border. Immigrant rights groups said the routine searches amounted to racial profiling and violated travelers' civil liberties.
While there have been no official announcements from the federal government, the National Border Patrol Council -- the union that represents more than 17,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents -- issued a press release with some details of the changes:
"Orders have been sent out from Border Patrol headquarters in Washington, D.C., to Border Patrol sectors nationwide that checks of transportation hubs and systems located away from the southwest border of the United States will only be conducted if there is intelligence indicating a threat," the release says.
In an article appearing on KRGV.com, a local Rio Grande, Texas, news station, Bill Brooks, southwest border field branch chief for Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C. explained the agency is "refining the way we operate by managing risk."
Brooks says agents will be at commercial transportation hubs if there is intelligence that indicates they need to be there.
The Associated Press has published another statement from the Border Patrol in whcih the agency says, "Conducting intelligence-based transportation checks allows the Border Patrol to use their technology and personnel resources more effectively, especially in areas with limited resources."
In September, a border patrol whistleblower working at Port Angeles, which is a three hour car ride and a ferry ride away from the U.S.-Canada border, made headlines when he said "there's nothing to do" there. "There are no gangs or cross-border activity. I haven't seen it," Border Agent Christian Sanchez said.
Advocates say these changes will lead to less racial profiling for people living near the northern border who just want to get to work. But the Border Patrol Union says these changes will make transportation systems more vulnerable.