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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane City Council considering restricting Border Patrol access to 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)

The Spokane City Council is expected to vote soon on an ordinance that would bar immigration enforcement agents from accessing nonpublic city property without a criminal warrant unless officers obtain the mayor’s permission.

The ordinance is designed to shore up Fourth Amendment protections, which prevent governments from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures, by requiring all immigration agents to obtain permission from the city or a warrant before accessing city property that is not open to the general public. The ordinance would apply to civil issues but not criminal matters.

The ordinance’s sponsor, Councilman Breean Beggs, said restricted areas could include any city property marked as private or a place where patrons must purchase a ticket to access.

“This ordinance follows federal law,” he said. “If it’s not open to the general public, then it shouldn’t be open to them.”

The City Council also will vote on an a resolution that would designate the Spokane Intermodal Center as a restricted area. Bill Kingsford, a spokesman for the Spokane Border Patrol Sector, said in this fiscal year the agency apprehended about 30 people at the Intermodal Center, which houses the Greyhound bus station. The agency arrested 25 people at the center in fiscal 2013, 58 in fiscal 2014, 22 in fiscal 2015, 36 in fiscal 2016 and 34 in fiscal 2017. In total, more than 200 people have been detained since 2013.

While the number of people arrested at the Intermodal Center has not increased dramatically, Kingsford said, the number of people taken into custody across the border patrol’s Spokane sector has increased. This fiscal year, 348 people were arrested in Washington, Idaho and Montana. Last year, 208 were arrested.

Kingsford said the current version of the ordinance should not apply to the immigration enforcement officers because Spokane is just inside the 100-mile border zone, within which border patrol officers can search for undocumented people without a warrant. He said the exception, outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act, allows the agency’s officers to board buses and ask questions.

Beggs said the First Amendment exceptions allowed under the Immigration and Nationality Act should still not apply to buses parked inside the Intermodal Center. Citing the U.S. Supreme Court case Collins v. Virginia earlier this year, Beggs said the border patrol cannot search residences and that rule should apply to vehicles parked inside city buildings.

The city also already has other immigration policies in place that prohibit city employees, including Spokane police officers, from inquiring about immigration status or detaining, delaying or arresting a person under suspicious of violating an immigration law.

Local groups such as Planned Parenthood, religious and civil rights organizations and the Spokane Coalition of Color – which includes the NAACP, the Hispanic Business/Professional Association and the Spokane Chapter of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition – wrote to the city last month asking for additional protections for undocumented people on city property.

Kingsford said the agency was not targeting people of color because its officers were questioning all passengers on buses, regardless of their race.

In a separate statement, the Spokane Coalition of Color voiced its support for the ordinance, saying many Spokane residents felt unwelcome because of immigration enforcement and the ordinance could be Spokane’s way off addressing the Trump administration’s more aggressive immigration policies.

The ordinance includes an emergency clause, meaning that it would take effect immediately and voters would not be able to recall it the way they could a normal ordinance. Councilman Mike Fagan, who voted against the emergency provision, said he believes Border Patrol should be able to carry out any duties outlined in federal law. He said he also voted against the emergency clause because he believes people should have an opportunity to intervene, but declined to comment on how he would vote Monday.

Beggs said the city was planning to use the Intermodal Center for the EnVision Center project, which would bring housing, behavioral health and other services under one roof, but chose a different location because they were concerned people wouldn’t seek services there if they thought they might be questioned by Border Patrol.

The resolution designating the Intermodal Center as a nonpublic area and the ordinance is scheduled to come before the City Council at its regular meeting Monday night.