Here is Richard Wackrow’s report on the presentation by David Abegglen, agent in charge of the Whitefish office of the Border Patrol, at the NFLA meeting earlier this month. For background information, see the article “Border Patrol agents on North Fork to increase from four to 50-plus” published in this summer’s newsletter . . .
As reported earlier, North Forkers are seeing more U.S. Border Patrol agents and increased local law enforcement activity on the North Fork as the result of a nationwide surge of agents and implementation of Operation Stonegarden.
Speaking by invitation prior to the Sept. 4 North Fork Landowners’ Association meeting at Sondreson Hall, David Jet Abegglen, patrol agent in charge at the Whitefish Border Patrol office, confirmed that there are now about 25 agents in this district. Besides patrolling the North Fork, his agents travel as far south as St. Regis and Missoula on assignments. Abegglen confirmed that the number of agents in his charge will continue to increase, as dictated by a “threat analysis” for the North Fork.
Operation Stonegarden is a national program designed to increase local law enforcement presence in communities along both borders through federal grants. In Flathead County, some $500,000 has been distributed to several agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office and the Kalispell Police Department. Sheriff’s deputies have been seen patrolling along the North Fork Road. Some deputies are riding with Border Patrol agents.
Addressing privacy concerns expressed by some at the hall, Abegglen said that federal statutes mitigate the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. Within 25 miles of the border (roughly from Camas Creek Road north), Border Patrol agents may enter private property without probable cause. They may not, however, enter a North Forker’s home or the buildings in its immediate vicinity without a warrant or in a non-urgent situation.
Abegglen confirmed the surge of Border Patrol agents nationwide. Congress has mandated that the number of agents be increased to some 22,000, with 10 percent of them deployed along the Canadian border. In addition, new Border Patrol facilities along the Canadian border must accommodate at least 50 agents.
During the question-and-answer period of his talk at the hall, Abegglen would not answer questions regarding the DHS’s threat analysis for the North Fork (which, he mentioned earlier, dictates the surge of agents on the North Fork) or any apprehension data, characterizing them as “law enforcement sensitive” under DHS regulations.
Regarding other issues, Abegglen said that:
- Speeding agents should be reported to him; he has instructed the Sheriff’s Office to have deputies write traffic citations for same.
- People possessing medical marijuana (legal in the state of Montana) will not be arrested.
- Agents are being instructed regarding environmental concerns here; for example, they are now required to carry bear spray.
Abegglen may be reached at his Whitefish office: telephone (406) 862-2561, cell (406) 270-5951, e-mail email@example.com.