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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

In less than six years, Border Patrol made nearly 200 arrests at the Spokane Intermodal Center

The Spokane Intermodal Center, the bus and train station, is shown Friday, April 11, 2014. The building has become the focus of the immigration debate in Spokane as a result of Border Patrol checks on Greyhound buses when they stop at the Intermodal Center. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

U.S. Border Patrol agents have arrested three people at the Spokane Intermodal Center in the past week and made nearly 200 apprehensions at the downtown bus depot since the start of fiscal 2013, according to data provided by the agency.

The evening of July 17, agents boarded a Greyhound bus to check the immigration status of each passenger. According to a news release, they arrested a 38-year-old Canadian man with “an extensive criminal history” after learning he had illegally crossed the border several days earlier near Oroville in Okanogan County.

Around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, agents arrested two Indian men while conducting checks at the bus terminal. One of the men presented an expired B-2 tourist visa that had been issued more than a year ago, according to a news release. The other had illegally entered the country from Mexico in May 2011, and he was in possession of a fraudulent Social Security card, according to the release.

Bill Kingsford, a spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Spokane sector, said Monday he could not name the Canadian man “for privacy reasons.” The agency also has not publicly identified the two Indian men who were taken into custody, but The Spokesman-Review was able to identify the pair through jail booking records.

Kantibhai M. Chaudhari, 40, and Mukeshkumar S. Chaudhari, 41, were booked into the Spokane County Jail shortly after 4 a.m. Monday. Their names appeared on the jail’s online roster of recently released inmates.

The names also generated results when entered into an “online detainee locator system” administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Although the Border Patrol news release said the two Indian men “were processed for removal and transported to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma to await their immigration hearing,” the ICE database indicated they hadn’t arrived in Tacoma on Tuesday. Instead, they were being held in the Yakima County Corrections Center, another county facility where they had been booked Monday evening.

Both the Spokane and Yakima jails have contracts to hold inmates on behalf of federal agencies, including ICE. An official at the Yakima jail confirmed the Chaudharis were still in custody there Tuesday afternoon.

Kingsford said agents in the Border Patrol’s Spokane sector, which spans from the east side of the Cascade Mountains to Glacier National Park in Montana, have made more than 250 apprehensions in fiscal 2018, a figure he described as “above average.” Agents in the sector made 208 arrests in all of fiscal 2017, according to agency data. About two-thirds of those arrested in fiscal 2017 were Mexican nationals.

Current law permits Border Patrol agents to conduct warrantless searches within 100 miles of the border. Kingsford said apprehensions at the Spokane Intermodal Center, which is just within that area, have totaled 25 in fiscal 2013, 58 in fiscal 2014, 22 in fiscal 2015, 36 in fiscal 2016, 34 in fiscal 2017 and about 20 so far in fiscal 2018. Each fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The practice of arresting immigrants at the bus station has drawn scrutiny from the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and from City Council President Ben Stuckart, who last month suggested Greyhound is in violation of Spokane’s anti-discrimination laws by permitting federal agents on its buses.

A Greyhound spokeswoman said in a statement last month the company was “caught in the middle of an issue that is not in our control.

“In terms of our policy, while we are required to comply with the law by allowing Border Patrol agents to board our buses when they ask to do so, we do not support or coordinate these searches, nor are we happy about them,” the spokeswoman said.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., recently introduced a bill that would shrink the buffer zone for warrantless searches to 25 miles, and Spokane officials have cited Border Patrol activity as a reason for abandoning plans to establish an integrated social services center at the Intermodal Center.

The Border Patrol, meanwhile, has defended its presence at the bus depot, saying transit hubs are used by human traffickers, drug smugglers and undocumented immigrants traveling toward the interior of the country.

“History has proven time and time again that once in the United States, illegal aliens use public transportation as a means to further their egress away from the border,” Henry Rolon, chief patrol agent for the Spokane sector, said in a news release this week.

Editor’s note: This story was changed on July 25, 2018. A previous version conflated calendar years and fiscal years when describing Border Patrol apprehension data.