What's Happening to America in the Borderlands?

Two thirds of Americans live within a hundred miles of a border or coast, where feds are allowed to violate more of their rights


A man, an American citizen, sits in his car as a U.S. Border Patrol agent insists that he roll down his window. He refuses. Agents use battering rams to smash the windows. Still, the driver refuses to leave his car, so he is hit with a Taser from two sides. He screams.

It would be bad enough if this scene, captured on video and shown recently on John Stossel's Fox News special "Policing America," had happened right at a U.S. border. But it happened far from the border. The U.S. government regards a large part of the country as close enough to a border or coast to justify treating individuals — citizens or not — as though they have no rights whatsoever. People have been beaten and had their personal belongings seized — without warrant or charge — just because they resented being treated like criminals. This should alarm anyone who thinks America is the "land of the free."

"Imagine the once thin borderline of the American past as an ever-thickening band, now extending 100 miles inland around the United States — along the 2,000-mile southern border, the 4,000-mile northern border, and both coasts — and you will be able to visualize how vast the CBP's [Customs and Border Protection] jurisdiction has become," writes Todd Miller, author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security, at "This 'border' region now covers places where two-thirds of the U.S. population (197.4 million people) live.… The 'border' has by now devoured the full states of Maine and Florida and much of Michigan."

The ACLU calls the expanded borderlands, in which two out of three Americans live, a "Constitution-free zone." Specifically, the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure appears to have been suspended.

This area is dotted with checkpoints at which anyone can be stopped, questioned, asked to exit his car, searched, and required to surrender personal belongings. Miller writes,

In these vast domains, Homeland Security authorities can institute roving patrols with broad, extra-constitutional powers backed by national security, immigration enforcement, and drug interdiction mandates. There, the Border Patrol can set up traffic checkpoints and fly surveillance drones overhead with high-powered cameras and radar that can track your movements. Within 25 miles of the international boundary, CBP agents can enter a person's private property without a warrant. In these areas, the Homeland Security state is anything but abstract. On any given day, it can stand between you and the grocery store.

It doesn't matter if you are an American citizen merely going about your business. If you live in a borderland, you can be stopped along an east-west route and have your daily routine interrupted. Yet, it should be pointed out, you are more likely to be harassed or arrested if you aren't white.

The harassment has prompted people around Arivaca, Arizona, 25 miles from the Mexican border, to demand that a local checkpoint be removed. According to Miller, people

were fed up with the obligatory stop between their small town and the dentist or the nearest bookstore. They were tired of Homeland Security agents scrutinizing their children on their way to school. So they began to organize.

In late 2013, they demanded that the federal government remove the checkpoint. It was, they wrote in a petition, an ugly artifact of border militarization; it had, they added, a negative economic impact on residents and infringed on people's constitutional rights. At the beginning of 2014, small groups from People Helping People in the Border Zone — the name of their organization — started monitoring the checkpoint several days a week.

Miller quotes James Lyall, an attorney with ACLU Arizona, as saying that "Border Patrol checkpoints and roving patrols are the physical world equivalent of the National Security Agency. They involve a massive dragnet and stopping and monitoring of innocent Americans without any suspicion of wrongdoing by increasingly abusive and unaccountable federal government agents."

This intolerable condition should outrage every American. Have we been reduced to a society of scared children who would rather have government agents harassing us wherever we go than take our chances with freedom?

This article originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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  1. Squirrels ate all the comments?

    1. Maybe a dingo ate your comment.

  2. But… but… but the ILLEGAL HUMANS are INVADING!!!! They have even started to take over my BRAIN!!!!

    1. It must be getting crowded in there.

      1. Well, yes, kinda crowded, a wee tad? Not THAT bad, though? You have to understand, MANY of the Illegal Humans have invaded OTHER people’s brains, not mine alone? Like the brains of the private gun-toting militias on the Texas border? I was astounded to see the other day that they have NOT invaded the brains of Glenn Beck!!! Rumor has it, I don’t “get” this thing, but some people say Glenn Beck’s brains have been invaded by some strange things called “humane decency” and “compassion” and somehow, that fends off getting Illegal Humans on or in the brain?

  3. The intolerable condition, Sheldon, is the wide open border which has led to this so called condition. The unsecure border is what every American should be outraged by. Secure our borders and relieve the pressure.

    1. WHOOSH!

    2. The only international border that is actually, really, truly “secure” is that between N. and S. Korea… Is THAT what we REALLY want in the “Land of the Free, & the Home of the Brave”?

      1. Well, yes.

        The difference is that we want a fence to keep people out, not in.

        1. A distinction without a difference.

          1. Kind of like the walls on your house. It doesn’t make a difference that they are there to keep people out. It’s the same as if they were these to keep you in! No difference. Down with all walls!!

            1. There are some REALLY big differences between the walls around your house, in any nation that has the tiniest vestiges of economic freedom, and the walls around a prison nation. The walls around your house can be built by the personal investments and labor of you and your friends and family, voluntarily, our\t of whatever ideals you and / or said friends and family hold in your heads, be they decent, neutral, or evil ideas. Me, I think “love” and “conscience” are some of the few worthwhile ideals, be they religiously backed, or not. Maybe justice, fairness, etc., too.
              Now the walls of a prison nation are VERY different, in being ALWAYS funded by coercively extracted taxes. It does NOT matter WHAT my ideals are, I MUST worship NATIONALISM with my taxes, and build those walls! There is no way that the high ideals can be bent to justify treating one person way, way different than another, based on being born 5 yards to this side of the border, or 10 yards that side. God, conscience, etc., Sacred Atheism, NONE, did dictate those kinds of things? ONLY the bent and sometimes frankly EVIL idiotic idealism called NATIONALISM does those kinds of perverted things that we do in the name of the illegal-humans witch-hunt? Mandate K-12 education even in-state tuition (public subsidies) for educating said illegal humans, and then when they get that degree, tell them they can’t work here! Explain?

        2. Don’t you mean we want to keep the wrong kind of people out yet still let the right kind of people in? The wrong kind being terrorists and criminals and government dependents and the right kind as being those who can be productive and contribute something positive to our society.

      2. “I don’t want to live that way”, I say? I have even commissioned these folks here? See following link… To more eloquently, at times beautifully, and certainly more nakedly honestly, fully explain how “I don’t want to live that way”? See ?

  4. The DMZ is largely impervious to individuals, but even it has border incursions by state actors. A tunnel under the DMZ big enough to drive vehicles through was discovered in the eighties. Both North And South Korea have large coasts to ease infiltrations.

    1. According to the NorK state media, that tunnel was a coal mine. Pay no heed to the fact that there is no coal in that part of Korea…

  5. Tough shit on all counts! Had our weak-minded politicians sealed the U.S.-Mexico Border many, many, many years ago when the drug cartels took over Mexico, perhaps we would not have this problem. Instead they opted to leave it open, so a flood of people could head north, without papers, where they could be exploited as cheap labor.

    Add to this, an increased traffic in drugs and automatic weapons, things are getting worse. If I didn’t know better, I would think that there were a whole bunch of people out there who get paid very giant bucks to keep the border insecure, and ensure the flow of drugs and cheap labor.

    Again, had the border been sealed/militarized years ago, most of what we are experiencing now could have been avoided. People would have been able to go through those Legal Ports of Entry with the proper papers. There would still be drug traffic but it would have decreased.

    Anyone who advocates having a really secure border between Mexico and the U.S. is dismissed as a racist or a nut case.

    1. It’s never been a goal of our politicians to seal our borders because having an influx of illegals is a win-win situation for both parties. The Dems want as many criminals, uneducated, and malleable as possible to indoctrinate into future Democrat voters as well as create a larger welfare class so they can grow government even bigger, and the Republicans want to provide the big corporations/big businesses with cheap labor.

      1. Your assessment of the situation is close to the truth. It’s all about control isn’t it? However, you forgot to mention why Libertarians want that OPEN border. They have their reasons too, but it’s still all about power, manipulation and control of one fucking kind or another.

  6. So how many of these children will Sheldon Richman be adopting? Do your duty Sheldon and give these children freedom!

  7. Perhaps we can trade the tens of millions of lazy welfare recipients for these children.

    We would save billions and have new Americans that wouldn’t be afraid to work for a living once they become adults.

  8. It isn’t the goal of our federal government any longer to encourage people to work, save, or live freely but to encourage and promote a huge welfare state where the majority are dependent upon the government for their survival and thus are easily controlled. The powerful confiscate all the wealth, keep most of it for themselves, and divvy up a small portion for the enslaved masses.

    1. Lots and lots of people still work, and very hard, and every day, and they also save and are free. Your antigovernment bias is so strong, you probably have a very difficult time seeing this.

  9. “A man, an American citizen, sits in his car as a U.S. Border Patrol agent insists that he roll down his window. He refuses. Agents use battering rams to smash the windows. Still, the driver refuses to leave his car, so he is hit with a Taser from two sides”

    When a cop knocks on your window, maybe you should roll it down and find out what’s going on.

  10. Another argument for a good fence on the border. Yes, I know fences don’t work. That’s why they are never used to keep people out of or in anyplace.

  11. The obvious answer to the question in the last paragraph is “yes”.

  12. Well golly. Why on Earth would the government enforce the Constitution in the border areas? They don’t enforce statutes or constitutionally-ok legislation re immigration at those borders either? And open borders libertarians just LOVE that sort of arbitrary lack of enforcement.

    Be careful what you wish for. Because – you got it.

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