Agents expanding enforcement areas
By Leslie Berestein (Contact) Union-Tribune Staff Writer
2:00 a.m. March 1, 2009

As the Border Patrol's ranks have increased in the San Diego area, so have reports of immigration-related traffic stops well away from the border.

Since late last year, there have been at least four reports of motorists stopped by immigration officials and questioned in the interior of the county and beyond. The agency has not emphasized interior patrols for several years.

Those who favor intensive enforcement of immigration laws long have pushed the federal government to do more, but the patrols are reigniting debate over what criteria agents use when deciding to make a stop. People who are in the country legally have been stopped, prompting criticism from immigrant advocates who say such tactics lead to racial profiling and the unnecessary questioning of U.S. citizens and legal residents.

The Border Patrol has stepped up what it calls roving patrols, said agent Jerry Conlin, a spokesman for the San Diego sector.

The patrols are not new or part of any policy change, he said, but there are now more agents to perform them.

“Because of additional manpower, we're able to apply our focused, layered enforcement approach,â€