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U.S. Begins Border Checks in Michigan

November 13, 2002|From Associated Press

KIMBALL TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Border Patrol agents began stopping drivers at unannounced, rotating checkpoints Tuesday in two areas of Michigan, looking for illegal immigrants, potential terrorists and drug or weapon smugglers.

The main purpose of the checkpoints is to stop immigrant smuggling, said Loretta Lopez-Mossman, acting chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol's Detroit sector.

However, agents also will look for other types of smuggling, and always are on the lookout for potential terrorists, Lopez-Mossman said.

"It's all about homeland security. Bottom line, we are here to be vigilant about the safety and security of the American people," INS spokesman Greg Palmore said before a news conference Tuesday.

Lopez-Mossman said everyone will be stopped wherever a checkpoint is set up and there will be no profiling aimed at Arabs or others.

Michigan is home to about 350,000 Arab Americans, which is more on a percentage basis than any other state. The population is concentrated in southeastern Michigan.

New York, Vermont and New Hampshire are among the northern border areas that already have similar programs, said Mario Villarreal, a Border Patrol spokesman. Officials set up a similar program in northwest Washington state last weekend, he said. The practice is common in such Southwest border states as Texas and California.

The Michigan checkpoints will be set up for probably two hours at a time at various points in the areas of Port Huron and Trenton, which are among the busiest for smuggling activity in the region, Lopez-Mossman said.

Port Huron, about an hour north of Detroit, is a bridge crossing from Sarnia, Ontario. Trenton, south of Detroit, is not an entry point but is on the Detroit River near the entry to Lake Erie and has a lot of boat traffic.

Detroit, which has two busy border crossings, is not being included in the checkpoints because officials are worried about traffic tie-ups, Lopez-Mossman said.

The checkpoints will be chosen according to several factors, including whether officials have intelligence about smuggling activity, Lopez-Mossman said.

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