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Recent Events Raise Profiling Questions in New York

May 14, 2008

New York, NY - Border Patrol agents are now conducting ID checks aboard Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains, and there are charges that some New Yorkers are being stopped and questioned because of the color of their skins or their countries of origin.

Maria Muentes with Families for Freedom calls it a clear case of profiling.

"It's not equally applied, so if you don't have an accent and you don't look like what they perceive to be an immigrant, you are not likely to get stopped, and so you can ride from state to state all you want."

The Border Patrol refers to them as "transportation checks." A spokesman could not say exactly how many checks had been conducted in New York, but he denied any profiling is involved.

Border Patrol can conduct some checks within 100 miles of the border, according to Joanne Macri with the New York State Defenders Association, but she says they cannot question riders based on racial or ethnic profiles. Macri says there have been cases where travelers have produced ID, but were taken off a train for further questioning, and she says she wants to knows why.

"Is it because the documents don't look right, is it because they're expired? Is it because the person speaks with an accent, or because of racial profiling? I mean, that's the question here. These officers are rarely questioned about the basis for pulling somebody off the bus or the train."

Macri says travelers have been detained until they prove their citizenship. She thinks Amtrak and Greyhound should warn riders that they may be required to produce identification and be subject to investigation.

Michael Clifford/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NY