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Originally published June 24, 2013 at 4:03 PM | Page modified June 24, 2013 at 5:05 PM

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ACLU, feds reach tentative deal on Border Patrol stops

The proposed settlement, subject to approval by the Department of Justice, involves a lawsuit alleging that Border Patrol agents made illegal traffic stops of Latinos on the Olympic Peninsula.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The American Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have reached a tentative settlement of a lawsuit over allegedly illegal traffic stops by Border Patrol agents looking for Latinos on the Olympic Peninsula who have immigrated illegally.

Details of the settlement were not immediately available and its adoption is awaiting final approval by the DOJ, according to a status report filed in U.S. District Court on Friday. The DOJ’s decision is anticipated by Aug. 21, according to the document.

The lawsuit, proposed as a class action, was filed last year by attorneys from the ACLU of Washington, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the Seattle law firm of Perkins Coie. It named as plaintiffs three Olympic Peninsula men — all U.S. citizens — who claim they were targeted for traffic stops by Border Patrol agents as a pretense to check their immigration status.

The lawsuit alleged such stops were routine and had been increasing since the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the agency, added agents to the Port Angeles office in an effort to increase security on the northern border.

The plaintiffs, as described when the suit was filed, included Jose Sanchez, a Forks resident who works as a correctional officer at the Olympic Corrections Center; Ismael Ramos Contreras, an 18-year-old senior and student-body president at Forks High School; and Ernest Grimes, an African-American Neah Bay resident who works as a correctional officer and part-time Neah Bay police officer.

Contreras said he was in a car with four others on their way to pick up tuxedos for a quinceañera — a traditional 15th birthday party — when the group was stopped July 22, 2011, in Port Angeles. He claims an agent took the car keys from the driver while four agents questioned Contreras and the others about their immigration status.

Contreras alleges he was questioned again in December outside the Clallam County District Courthouse, where a plainclothes agent approached and asked him where he lived and where he was born.

The lawsuit, filed in April 2012, seeks an injunction to prevent agents from conducting traffic stops until they received special training and their actions were overseen by a special court-appointed monitor. It also sought to have the agency document and detail all traffic stops.

Sarah Dunne, the legal director of the ACLU of Washington, said Monday she could not discuss the specifics of the tentative agreement pending its approval by DOJ and adoption by the court.

The status report noted that litigation of the lawsuit had been on hold since February, when both sides entered into what they described as “good-faith settlement negotiations.”

The document filed Friday stated that “The parties are pleased to report that they have now reached an agreement on settlement terms to resolve this action, contingent upon final approval by the Department of Justice.”

A telephone call to the Office of Immigration Litigation, which is overseeing the lawsuit, was not immediately returned.

Mike Carter: mcarter@seattletimes.com or 206-464-3706

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