Sequim man apprehended, released by border patrol

Jose Antonio Hernandez had a tough weekend.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrested Hernandez and Daniel Rodriguez, both of Sequim, Jan. 30 after performing a traffic stop on Rodriguez's truck.

Both were transported to a holding facility in Tacoma.

Hernandez, 28, was released Feb. 2 after authorities reviewed his case.

Hernandez is a legal immigrant to the country. He has a permanent resident card - the so-called green card - but did not have it with him when he was stopped last Friday.

Agents determined Rodriguez, 18, was not a legal resident in the U.S. He remains in the Tacoma facility. He will face a deportation hearing and either will be sent back to Mexico, his country of origin, or will be released, depending on the judge's decision.

The men's arrests led to a four-person protest Jan. 31 at the intersection of Sequim Avenue and Washington Street.

There, sign-holders alleged the Department of Homeland Security - the agency in charge of Border Patrol - uses fear tactics and racial profiling in its arrests.

Michael Bermudez, a Border Patrol spokesman, said the accusations were not true.

"Agents were conducting their usual business, saw a subject they recognized and performed a traffic stop to contact that individual," Bermudez said, indicating the agents believed both men to be in the country illegally.

"(Hernandez) was at one point lawfully admitted as a resident of the country but had violated his status, so he was taken into custody."

Hernandez was convicted of an aggravated felony in 2003. Such a felony is an immigration violation if the subject is sentenced to a year or more in jail.

Hernandez received one year in jail but only served 10 days after the judge suspended the rest of the sentence pending Hernandez's compliance with probation.

Bermudez said the agents were aware of Hernandez's conviction because of a prior encounter with him.

"In the first encounter, he had his green card, so he was not detained," he said.

"But agents did take his information, reviewed it later and discovered there had been a violation."

Although Hernandez has been released, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said his case still was being reviewed.

"Our attorneys decided they needed more time to review the case, so he was released during that time," said Lorie Dankers, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hernandez returned home to Sequim Monday to his fiancee and 4-year-old son.

Hernandez and Rodriguez were pulled over in a routine traffic stop, according to Bermudez, and not during one of the Border Patrol's highway checkpoints where agents stop every car and ask occupants of their citizenship in an effort to find terrorists or instruments of terror.

The Border Patrol began performing the random checkpoints in 2008 at three points on the north Olympic Peninsula.

The roadblocks have been met with mixed reactions in the community.

A grassroots organization, the Stop the Checkpoints Committee, formed and began to protest the roadblocks, mostly through marches and rallies in downtown Port Angeles and Forks.

However, last weekend's protest took place in Sequim. Another protest is scheduled for Feb. 7 at the same intersection.

Border Patrol spokesmen have indicated the checkpoints are within their jurisdiction, 100 miles from the border, and are a part of their effort to catch terrorists, instruments of terror and drug activity.

The agents have remained adamant after protests that they will not ignore that people they contact are in the country illegally or have committed a crime, although the thrust of the operations is to identify and stop terrorist activity.

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