ACLU: Border Patrol goes over the line too often
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona recently released a damning report about the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, using documents obtained from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit as evidence of an out-of-control agency that abuses citizens’ constitutional rights with impunity and lacks basic record keeping, oversight or any sense of accountability for its routine violations.
“The records contain recurring examples of Border Patrol agents detaining, searching and terrorizing individuals and entire families at interior checkpoints and in ‘roving patrol’ vehicle stops far into the interior of the country; threatening motorists with assault rifles, electroshock weapons and knives; destroying and confiscating personal property; and interfering with efforts to video record Border Patrol activities,” the ACLU report states. “Above all, these documents show a near-total lack of investigation of, much less discipline for, egregious civil rights abuses; to the contrary, some of the records show Border Patrol tacitly or explicitly encouraging its agents to violate the law.”
Citizens asking why they were stopped were told, for example, that “I don’t have to tell you that” and “We’ll think of something.” One agent said he stopped a man because “the time he is driving to work is also a peak time for smuggling.” When one woman had the audacity to question the authority of the agents who stopped her, they slashed her rear tire, stranding her and her two young children on a hot desert road.
Interior checkpoints — such as the San Clemente station on I-5 — which may be located up to 100 miles from the border, also appear to be rather ineffective or unnecessary. Interior checkpoint apprehensions accounted for just 0.74 percent of total apprehensions for the Tucson and Yuma Sectors in 2012 and 2013. One checkpoint, 75 miles north of the border in the Yuma Sector, reported one noncitizen apprehension in three years, but generated multiple civil rights complaints during that time.
“Border Patrol agents at checkpoints are often more concerned with finding drugs than with immigration enforcement, notwithstanding U.S. Supreme Court precedent prohibiting general ‘crime control’ checkpoints,” the report scolded. And most of those caught are Americans, not Mexican drug smugglers. The Center for Investigative Reporting found in 2013 that three of every four people found with drugs are U.S. citizens.
Given the Border Patrol’s wanton violations of U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights, the apparent lack of need for immigration-related duties so far from the border, the illegal focus on drugs and non-immigration-related crime and the absence of oversight or accountability — not to mention the traffic headaches — interior Border Patrol checkpoints should be eliminated and the agency limited to its constitutional mandates.
Reprinted from the Orange County Register.
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