On April 3, I found an article in the Skagit Valley Herald that seems to be much more than a small local event. A situation that looks, at first glance, like a simple ferry security issue, but is actually the beginning of a situation that many would consider unconscionable.

A summary of the article is this: The US Border patrol is closing the fence used by the US Customs and Immigration Service at the Anacortes ferry terminal and they are stopping and questioning people before they are allowed to drive through. Really?

Now, I agree that this is a perfectly legitimate procedure when the ferry from Sidney, BC is arriving. But in this article, we get the story that people traveling from their homes in the San Juan Islands, to work, to play, and to run errands on the mainland, are being stopped in the same way. These are not international travelers. These are residents and visitors of San Juan County, Washington.

The article mentions the need for security, but the Border Patrol Agency emphasizes the number of undocumented aliens they have caught. No matter what you think about the immigration issue, I have news for you. Whether you believe that “immigrants are a necessary part of society” or that “illegal immigrants should be caught and deported immediately”, what I am describing to you here is not an immigration issue.

The Washington State Ferry (WSF) system is operated by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) as an integral part of the state’s highway system. That being said, the issue here is that the US Government is putting a fence across our state highways and questioning all who pass.

So far, there is only local opposition to these actions. But I suspect that it has as much to do with the story being reported only locally to date.

So, we put a fence across the ferry terminal roadway and question drivers three times per week. I’ll bet that if we put up a fence at the Seattle ferry terminal and questioned the drivers coming from Bremerton that we would get quite an uproar from the citizens of Washington’s largest city. I’ll even bet that if we did that, we would find a few undocumented aliens there, too. But I don’t think we need to be blocking highways and stopping traffic to accomplish that. If law enforcement were paying attention, they could find a similar number of undocumented aliens in just about every community in our area.

So, what of questioning ferry riders? It sends a precedent. That’s why it’s a problem. If they can block a state highway in Anacortes to go on a fishing expedition for lawbreakers, what is to stop them next week from putting a fence in across I-5 at Bellingham three times per week just to look for scufflaws and to “keep us safe”. Once we begin this process, where does it stop?

  • Are we really willing to give up our rights to freely travel in our country to “be safe”?
  • If we are questioning people searching for undocumented aliens, how soon to we simplify the task and make it a sort of crime to be “driving while dark skinned”?
  • Are we ready to allow ourselves to be stopped and searched as we drive down any state highway?

Please don’t get me wrong. If a dangerous person were on the loose, and if police were stopping people meeting a certain description or driving a certain color car to help find that person, I can understand that and would agree to that. Happily.

But to start randomly pulling over citizens to see if they are acting suspiciously seems like a frightening proposition to me. And while it is legal for the Border Patrol to stop people in their cars to catch those who might have crossed the border illegally, this business about stopping groups of people on a regular basis seems, at the very least, to be unconstitutional to me.

I am not ready to give up on freedom. Things are not nearly that bad in this country. Certainly there must be better ways for the Border Patrol to accomplish their important job.