Recently, the Border Patrol set up five checkpoints on the North Olympic Peninsula, including one on state Highway 104 in Jefferson County near Hood Canal Bride and another on U.S. Highway 101 and Discovery Bay.
Since the checkpoints were established, 15 immigration-related arrests were made, 10 of which were turned over to other agencies due to suspected criminal backgrounds.
Now, Port Townsend residents are objecting to the increased number of Border Patrol Agents in their area. About 50 local residents attended a forum hosted by the Jefferson County Democrats and attended by Border Patrol agents Cmdr. Todd McCool, Deputy Cmdr. Jason Carroll, and Chris Dyer, public affairs officer.
One Port Townsend resident, Dave Woodruff, directed his sentiments to the Border Patrol: "If you are here to protect us from foreign terrorists, that's one thing, but if you are just trying to perpetuate your agency that's another," Woodruff said. "Don't try to scare us and tell us about the bogeymen . . . tell us how you are here and how you are interdicting terrorists."
Libby Palmer talked of living in the "Red scare" in the 1950s and 1960s. "Many of us remember that era, when everybody was a communist living under everything around us. That fear was spread in order to perpetuate aspects of the policy at the time and it was intense."
Deputy Cmdr. Carroll said he would prefer that agents worked off the Peninsula's mainland, in the surrounding waterways, even on the other side of the border, so as not to upset residents.
Two audience members objected to the agents showing up carrying sidearms, but Officer Dyer explained it was just a part of the uniform, like a shirt. He added that they were no different than police officers showing up at a function carrying weapons."This is our uniform," he said.
Chimacum resident John Cantlon asked why the Border Patrol appeared to be applying the southern border strategy to the northern border, by adding agents."I don't have a problem with the Border Patrol," Cantlon said. "But to take the southern strategy at the southern border and move it up here is completely mind boggling."
Carroll said the extent of the Border Patrol's staffing now amounts to 19 agents on actual patrol "working the border."The number of agents for the entire Peninsula's shoreline border was "a drop in the bucket, but that helps with the deterring effect," he said with a smile."We analyze our strategy," Carroll said. "The threat up here is terrorists. Canada is an easy country to get asylum."