Civil rights group says border agent ruling will ‘make it harder for people to protect their rights’

Civil rights group says border agent ruling will ‘make it harder for people to protect their rights’

June 20, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

“There have been incidents here in Maine where immigration officials have stopped people on the highway or questioned people on buses,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maine’s Zachary Heiden tells Maine Public. The report notes that the civil rights advocates had previously urged Greyhound to stop allowing border agents to harass their customers. Following years of pressure, Greyhound finally admitted in 2020 that it indeed has power to block warrantless searches. 

The company’s former stance also came with a price tag, agreeing to settle a lawsuit from Washington state’s attorney general for $2.2 million.

The recent decision from the Supreme Court also stemmed from Washington state, launched by a private citizen who accused a border agent of entering his property without a warrant, assaulting him, and prompting a tax audit into his business. But the court’s right-wing justices “reinforced protections for government officials who are generally immune from civil lawsuits when it is determined they have acted in good faith while carrying out their duties,” The Washington Post reported.

These abuses endanger not just communities along the border, but regions not typically thought of as “border states.” Border agents in 2018 detained a Vermont dairy worker as he was leaving the dentist’s office, targeted for his participation in the migrant rights organization Migrant Justice. Internal documents would later reveal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) surveilled the group. Migrant Justice would eventually sue ICE for harassment, settling for $100,000.

But the Supreme Court’s decision could unleash even further abuses. This 100-mile zone also encompasses major U.S. cities including Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City. “Heiden says he hopes Congress will enact legislation to ensure the Constitution’s protections are a reality for all individuals,” the report continued.

Depending on Congress for this relief is not hopeful. “Because Congress will never do this, what this means is that, basically, if the federal government violates your rights in anything but a narrow set of circumstances, if the government doesn’t want to make amends on its own, well, tough shit, bucko,” American Immigration Council senior policy counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick said earlier this month.

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