Seven suspected illegal immigrants detained in first-ever U.S. 101 traffic checkpoint
By Randy Trick, Peninsula Daily News
FORKS – Customs and Border Protection agents on Thursday detained seven people thought to be illegal immigrants at the North Olympic Peninsula’s first-ever traffic checkpoint on U.S. Highway 101.
Travelers moving south on the highway between 8 a.m. and noon – including those in a Clallam County Transit bus – were stopped north of Forks and asked if they were citizens and where they were born.
More checkpoints on Highway 101 in Clallam County can be expected in the coming months, said Robert Kohlman, a field operations supervisor in the agency’s Blaine office.
The federal agency, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the checkpoint was part of a nationwide terrorism deterring strategy.“The checkpoints are part of the national border protection strategy,” Kohlman said.
The seven who were detained were taken to a federal detention center in Tacoma, where they will await removal proceedings, Kohlman said.
Kohlman did not have the names of the people detained on Thursday.
Fear in Forks
To some in Forks, Thursday’s action felt like an immigration sweep.
“They’re visibly upset,” said Mayor Nedra Reed, when asked about what she has heard from Hispanics in Forks.
“The perception was that this was a sweep.
“It’s the normal fear in the community.”
Juan Almazan said he got phone calls from friends asking what was going on and worrying that the point was to round up illegal aliens. He said that his community rarely gets answers “so we stopped asking.”
Jerry King, who runs the Alder Grove Trailer Park, said that a couple of people talked with him about it.
“They weren’t happy much about it,” he said.
Manuela Velasquez – a family educator at the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program, a preschool program in Forks – said some students seemed worried because their parents were worried.“I feel really bad because it hurts the children,” she said.
“Sometimes parents talk and the children hear and get scared.”
Velasquez said the idea of a mandatory checkpoint upsets her because it catches otherwise law-abiding people.
“They’re trying to find people dealing with drugs and not doing what they supposed to,” Velasquez said. “There are other avenues for them to work and get the bad people.”