A Seattle-based immigrant advocacy nonprofit filed a formal civil rights complaint against the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, challenging the practice of local police departments calling in border patrol agents to act as interpreters in routine matters.
As part of the complaint, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) also released a damning video which they claim was recorded last February. It allegedly depicts border patrol agents calling undocumented immigrants "all wet," (at the 2:25 mark in the below video) a derogatory term used to describe those who have crossed the border illegally, according to NWIRP. A Washington State Patrol officer brought the border patrol agents captured in the video to the scene for “interpretation assistance,” according to the complaint.
Washington Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Mike Milne said he could not comment on the video or complaint. The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.
WATCH: NWIRP Video Of Border Patrol Agents Acting As Interpreters, Using Ethnic Slur
NWIRP filed the suit in Washington state on behalf of six individuals who experienced similar treatment. They say that border patrol agents and police are breaking the law.
“Law enforcement agencies who attempt to use Border Patrol for alleged ‘interpretation assistance’ during routine matters are failing to provide meaningful access to their services to people with limited English skills, as they are required to do under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 13166,” said Jorge L. Barón, executive director of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in a press statement.
The NWIRP civil rights complaint comes amidst a flurry of bad press for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, including the release of a new PBS documentary which implicates more than a dozen border patrol agents in the tasing death of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas.The documentary, which aired in April, includes footage showing one border patrol agent striking Hernandez-Rojas with a baton while another agent tased the Mexican national with a stun gun. During the incident Hernandez-Rojas lay on the ground, yelling for help, with more than a dozen border patrol agents around him. He died shortly after the incident. Border patrol agents have said Hernandez-Rojas resisted officers while being deported.
The Washington civil rights complaint also comes less than a week after Michigan border patrol agents were called to act as interpreters when six immigrants placed a 911 call in Huron County. The Huffington Post uncovered that border patrol agents never translated the reasons for the initial 911 call, but rather, only identified the immigrants as undocumented, and took them into custody.
Immigration attorney Erich Straub told The Huffington Post that calling in the border patrol as interpreters in the Michigan case was inappropriate, particularly because the call may have involved a medical emergency.
"I seriously doubt that Huron calls in the border patrol for every single translation case. Federal law enforcement is expensive, and border patrol agents are busy people," Straub told The Huffington Post.
CBP has insisted that when called by law enforcement agencies for translation assistance, they only work to facilitate communication.
Spokesperson Richard Sinks told Seattle-area KUOW/ 94.9 FM news radio, "we will not arrest or even seek immigration status of a victim or a witness. We're strictly there for translation in that type of request."
The lawyers behind the suit filed this week say this border patrol agents too often behave differently.
"The video that is being released today shows that agents in fact question and detain individuals who were witnesses and bystanders,” Barón said.
Civil rights complaints filed against the nation's border patrol agency have grown substantially in recent years. In 2004, lawyers and individuals who had contact with border patrol agencies filed 34 complaints. In 2010, the most recent year for which complaint data is available, 65 complaints were made against the agency.
Like all formal notices of alleged civil rights violations, the complaint filed this week will be investigated, according to information about the complaint process listed on The Department of Homeland Security's website. Agency investigators will generate a report and, if they deem it necessary, recommend changes.
Guatemala's former President Alfonso Portillo arrives to court in Guatemala City, Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. Portillo is required to appear in court once a month until his possible extradition to the U.S., and on Monday the country's top court confirmed Portillo will be extradited to the U.S. where he will face charges of conspiracy to launder money. His date of extradition was not announced. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Former Panamanian general Manuel Noriega was extradited to France in 2010 on charges of money laundering. Noriega was first convicted on drug trafficking charges in the U.S. and sentenced to to 30 years in prison in 1992. In April 2010, he was sent to France after the U.S. State Department authorized his extradition. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison in July 2010 by a French judge, <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/n/manuel_antonio_noriega/index.html" target="_hplink">according to the NYTimes.</a> Noriega was Panama's longtime intelligence chief before taking power in 1982. He had been considered a valued CIA asset for years, but as a dictator he joined forces with drug traffickers and was implicated in the death of a political opponent. The French claimed Noriega laundered some $3 million in drug proceeds by purchasing luxury apartments in Paris, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/26/manuel-noriega-to-be-extr_n_552640.html" target="_hplink">according to HuffPost.</a>
FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2011 file photo, Inocente Orlando Montano, a former Salvadoran military officer, arrives at federal court in Boston. Montano, accused of colluding in the 1989 slayings of six Jesuit priests, admitted Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in federal court in Boston that he lied to U.S. immigration officials, a guilty plea that could allow him to be extradited to Spain for prosecution in the killings. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
The late Chilean general Augusto Pinochet was captured in London where he had traveled for medical treatment. On October 1999, he was extradited to Spain to stand trial for torture and human rights charges, <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/468589.stm" target="_hplink">according to BBC news. </a> Human rights groups hailed the decision. Some of Pinochet's most gruesome crimes were said to be have come during "The Caravan of Death", <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/850932.stm" target="_hplink"> where prisoners who had voluntarily turned themselves in were taken from their cells and summarily executed, often without the knowledge or consent of the local military authorities.</a> Pinochet was under house arrest because of his deteriorating health. He died in December 2006.
This image provided by the DEA shows Eduardo Arellano-Felix in the process of being extradited to the United States from Mexico Friday Aug. 31, 2012. Arellano-Felix will face U.S. charges of racketeering, money laundering and narcotics trafficking. Arellano-Felix was arrested by Mexican authorities in Tijuana, Mexico, on Oct. 25, 2008, following a gun battle with a Mexican authorities. (AP Photo/DEA)
A Mexican Navy officer stands next to Mario Cardenas Guillen, also known as "El Gordo" and "M-1," during his presentation to the media in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. Authorities says Cardenas Guillen, a top leader of the Gulf drug cartel, is the brother of Osiel Cardenas Guillen, who led the cartel until he was detained in 2003. Osiel Cardenas was extradited in 2007 to the United States and sentenced to 25 years in prison. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)
FILE - In this April 14, 2012 file photo, police escort Ramon Quintero, a suspected Colombian drug trafficker, as he arrives to Bogota after being deported from Ecuador. Quintero, who is awaiting sentencing in a Miami Federal court, confessed on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 to a charge of conspiracy to import cocaine from Colombia into the U.S. Quintero was extradited to the U.S. in Dec. 2011. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File)
The former Guatemalan president during a hearing in court on May 9, 2011 in Guatemala City. A court acquitted Portillo and two former ministers of allegedly diverting $15 million in an embezzlement scheme involving the Ministry of Defense. Prosecutors in New York accused Portillo of using U.S. bank accounts to launder millions of dollars in public funds, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-15750420" target="_hplink">according to BBC. </a>
Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera Pineda, aka Simon Trinidad, one of the highest ranking officials of the FARC, or Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia was captured in Jan. 2004. In the 1980s, Trinidad was a respected banker in the city of Valledupar, Colombia. He managed the bank accounts of important Colombian figures, he owned a luxury apartment and his kids attended the best private school, <a href="http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/farc/farc-capturado-simon-trinidad.htm" target="_hplink">according to Latin American Studies. </a> In 1987, however, Trinidad decided to join the Northern Caribbean Bloc of FARC. He handled the group's finances. He was captured in Quito, Ecuador in 2004 and <a href="http://www.eluniverso.com/2004/11/06/0001/14/60DC93AD358E473584B1201B8AAB3571.html" target="_hplink">was authorized for extradition in November 2004. </a> One of the first ranking guerrilla members to captured, Trinidad is serving a 60-year sentence in the United States.
Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, aka Jorge 40, was the leader of the Northern Bloc of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), a murderous, right-wing paramilitary group in Colombia. He demobilized with his two thousand men on March 10, 2006. In 2008, the Colombian government took <a href="http://www.justiceforcolombia.org/news/article/354/human-rights-experts-condemn-extradition-of-paramilitary-leaders" target="_hplink">Jorge 40 and 13 other paramilitary leaders from there jail cells</a>. They were extradited to the U.S.
Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, former founder and leader of the <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/business/inside/colombian.html" target="_hplink">Medellin Cartel</a> was captured in 1995 and held in a Colombian prison. Rodriguez Orejuela was extradited to U.S. in March of 2005 after former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe signed an executive order. The cartel boss was charged alongside his brother, Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela,<a href="http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v04/n1748/a02.html" target="_hplink"> for running a drug network that produced 80 percent of the cocaine entering the U.S. during the 1990s. </a> <a href="http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/colombia/orejuela.htm" target="_hplink">In a federal indictment in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, officials charged that the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, even from prison, wielded enormous influence, running a money-laundering operation to hide $2.1 billion in drug revenue. </a>