May 12, 2009

The U.S. Border Patrol's Interior Checkpoints

With a lot of attention (especially by me) on the new passport requirements at the border on June 1, there has also been controversy of legal ability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to detain anybody 100 miles inside the external boundaries of the United States.

The "Constitution-Free Zone" (coined by the American Civil Liberties Union) where border agents can question and detain anybody:
Background from a Government Accountability Office Report:

When establishing checkpoints, the Border Patrol must take into account court decisions ruling on the parameters of immigration officers’ authorityto conduct inquiries concerning illegal aliens. The legal authority of immigration officials to establish permanent checkpoints and stop vehicles transiting through them has been confirmed by the Supreme Court in United States v. Martinez-Fuerte.14 The Supreme Court ruled that government officials may stop vehicles at permanent interior checkpoints for brief questioning of the driver and passengers without reasonable suspicion. The Court held that it was constitutional for the Border Patrol, after routinely stopping or slowing automobiles at a permanent checkpoint, to refer motorists selectively to a secondary inspection area for questions about citizenship and immigration status on the basis of criteria that would not sustain a roving patrol stop.15 (15A roving patrol stop is a stop by an agent who patrols in a vehicle but who is not assigned to a particular location.)

The Court determined that the constitutional interests of motorists at these checkpoints were not violated, for a number of reasons. It found that the checkpoints, with flashing lights and warning signs, provided advance notice to motorists of an official roadblock that was applicable to all motorists.16 Motorists were not taken by surprise, as they knew, or could find out, the location of the checkpoints. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the regular manner in which established checkpoints were operated was visible evidence that the stops were duly authorized.17 (14428 U.S. 543 (1976).)

From the extremely independent minded but legally uneducated individual who went out of his way to challenge this legal authority, stop highway traffic, and waste taxpayer money (video below) I really can't see how in his specific cases his rights were being infringed upon. If he would have stopped, showed ID, answered a question or two and moved on he could have saved a half hour of his life and not gotten so upset over what amounted to a minor inconvenience.

I can see why there is concern about civil liberties and effective use of taxpayer dollars in borderline cases where Border Patrol questions people at bus and train station about their immigration status. This has been criticized by immigrant and civil liberties advocates who

argue that the agents focus more on certain passengers based on skin color and accent.

"They will see a white person and ask, 'Where were you born?' Then they will see a person of color and ask, 'Do you have ID?' " says Caroline Kim with the Detainment Task Force in Syracuse, which provides bail for some detained immigrants and helps them through the legal process.

These kind of accusations racial profiling and assaults on civil liberties should be taken seriously, but I don't agree with the actions of the individial below who, in his specific situation overreacted horrifically to what amounted to a short traffic stop which didn't significantly infringe upon his rights.


  1. I don't understand why you can describe this as a horrific overreaction. When our rights are violated, how do we protest peacefully? How then do we demonstrate our dissatisfaction with our government? He's calm, peaceful and I think he knows the law. They had no basis to search, or what did I miss? I watched the whole 27:37 and they never had any reason to do that. In the end, they knew they were up against someone who knew the law, unlike most citizens who simply comply with illegal actions.

  2. Well he was subject to a small traffic stop which "amounted to a short traffic stop which didn't significantly infringe upon his rights." He wasted a half hour of his life and got irrationally upset about being asked a few simple questions. It's not as if they wanted to search his car or pat him down...or anything. As stated above the internal checkpoints are constitutional...and there is no reason for him to yell "don't touch my car this is my car!" and being so belligerent and the point that he is told to calm down.

    He has no problem with yelling that he is a US citizen but refuses to say that in the many other self righteous videos he has made.

  3. He selectively edits videos to show only what happened after the officers asked him a few simple questions. If he took five seconds to answer a few questions there would be no need for a 27 minute hissy fit to post on youtube.

  4. As a native born American I believe I Have, I Demand, and I would Fight for, the Right to Drive in my Car from Los Angeles to New York City without being pulled over and searched by some Nazi-Scum Border Patrol at their Gestapo-like Checkpoints. This freedom of movement is a Freedom that our American Ancestors fought for in the Revolutionary War and only spineless belly crawling people with a slave-mentality would think
    The only internal Checkpoints that are legitimate in a free society are those that are erected in an Emergency situation, such as when a Bank is robbed and the robbers are headed out of town on the main highway, or when there is a hypothetical disease outbreak of some kind that requires screening to prevent the spread of the disease. All of the other checkpoints that are sprouting up like mushrooms all across America, such as DUI checkpoints, Drivers License Checkpoints, Insurance checkpoints, Internal US Immigration Checkpoints, etc... are all mere grooming of the population to accept and become accustomed to totalitarianism and fascism.

  5. I lived in Saudi Arabia. Everywhere one went several times a day traveling anywhere one would always encounter check points and be compelled at gunpoint under color of authority to show papers and documents that identified your religion and citizenship. This is clearly tyranny that is being made palatable to American citizens that will only grow much worse if partiots do not start refusing peacefully in civil disobedience to comply with unlawful search and seizures. Even if you think this citizen a bit histrionic consider his apprehension and risk in his actions, they will not forgive his "contempt of cop" there will be penalties as one of the gestapho indicated. If he lives locally he will be harassed and they threatened to call his employer and defame him as well. When will Americans wake up and smell the coffee? When the bell tolls for you?

  6. You people annoy me. Every American certainly has the right to question our government. My problem with most of the Americans who post comments on articles such as the one above is who they choose as the target of their discontentment. The finger always seems to fall on those who enforce the laws. Law enforcement officers are not only bond by federal, state, and local laws, but also by agency regulations. The officials that we see on the streets are not the ones who write the laws and regulations. They are, however, tasked with working within said laws and regulations. My point is this: if you want to fight the system, fight it; but please "aim" at the correct target. Stop harassing the guys on the street who are tasked with upholding the laws that you find to be so "awful." Instead, focus on those who write the laws. Please!

  7. I have lived in Texas for two years...before living in Kansas and not being subjected to these border checkpoints. It is very scary to see what is happening in the way of intimidation by border patrol in the U.S.

  8. to those of you who think this guy overreacted, when do you want to fight back? after its too late? explain to me where he was wrong. if here illegal the bill of rights says we do not have to testify against ourselves, if he is here legally, he has the right to privacy. now what is the point of these internal check points if not for the conditioning of the american people to be stopped, searched, and questioned for no reason.

  9. Oooh, you’re such an inspiration. I love this blog!

  10. "Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart."

    Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials

  11. I see that this is a pretty old blog article, but this isn't any less relevant today than it was when it was posted.

    I watched most of the video but had to skip a lot of "bickering". I did feel like the "citizen" in the video was rude and abrasive too early on. If I had been him, I would have declined their questions and the search with a little less arrogance up front. I might have asked them to justify their legal authority to question or search him, but politely. As someone who knows my rights, not as someone who is just being intentionally contrarian. I think many of the agents behaved unprofessionally too. Lost their tempers. You can see in evidence that they are a little too comfortable with people complying willfully, stating that someone refusing to comply is enough for "suspicion". Sadly, that's a testament to just how docile we all are. None of us should be so easily submitting to them. Stop, yes. Be polite, yes. Answer useless questions and accept unwarranted searches? Absolutely not. In spirit, this guy is absolutely justified in refusing to submit to what is clearly unconstitutional searches. Period.