Patrolmen Without Borders

U.S. Border Patrol agents are routinely harassing American citizens who just want to drive home from work.


Bill Morrow/Flickr

If I drive across a U.S. border, I expect to stop at a Border Patrol checkpoint. But imagine driving to the grocery store, or Mom's house, well inside America, and being stopped by the Border Patrol. Many Americans don't have to imagine it—it's how they live.

Even as the federal government fails to control the southern border, it sends the Border Patrol farther into the interior, where Americans complain that agents harass people who are already U.S. citizens.

It's legal. The Supreme Court ruled that the Border Patrol can set up "inland" checkpoints anywhere up to 100 miles from an external border of the United States. That's what government now considers a "reasonable distance" from the border.

But that means the zone within which you could be stopped and searched includes much of Florida and California, and all of Maine and New Hampshire. Two-thirds of America's population lives that close to the border.

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer James Lyall argues, "Interior checkpoints fundamentally fly in the face of what it means to live in a free society, where you don't have to answer to federal agents when you're going about your daily business."

The Supreme Court ruled that Border Patrol agents at these checkpoints can "conduct brief stops for the limited purpose of verifying residence status" but cannot "conduct searches of individuals or the interior of their vehicles." But the experience of members of my staff and videos on YouTube show that Border Patrol agents do exactly that. They often demand answers to lots of questions and search cars, too.

The reason these videos are posted on YouTube is because increasing numbers of Americans consider the searches unconstitutional. They refuse to answer the extra questions. Some refuse to roll down their windows. Then agents sometimes break the window. Sometimes they tase the driver.

Pastor Steven Anderson was stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint 60 miles from the Mexican border. Officers say their police dog alerted them to something in his car, but Anderson says the dog never reacted to anything. Anderson wouldn't let them search his car, so officers broke both windows and tased him.

People in Arivaca, Arizona, 25 miles from border, told us that living there is like living in occupied territory. Apache helicopters fly overhead. Dozens of Border Patrol trucks cruise their streets. Children in Arivaca must go through checkpoints every day just to go to school.

"Agents tell people," says Lyall, "that all residents are suspect simply by virtue of living in southern Arizona."

The Border Patrol wouldn't respond to my questions about these issues, so Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) spoke up for them: "I'm not aware of any significant abuses. I'm on the Homeland Security Committee. If anything, the complaint we get is there's not enough strict enforcement." He points out that "when people come into this country illegally, they don't stay on the border; they keep going."

That's true. But that doesn't justify harassing people who just want to drive home from work.

Rick Rynearson, an Air Force pilot who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told me he's furious about being repeatedly stopped. Once he was detained for over half an hour when, after answering 17 questions from agents, he refused to answer more.

I asked Rynearson: "Why not? The Border Patrol agents would say, come on, Rick, this is hardly a threat to your liberty. Just tell us where you're going." But Rynearson told me he sees himself as "a person who's having to stop in the middle of a road, who's done nothing wrong, and finds himself surrounded by armed government agents with dogs."

As an Air Force pilot, Rynearson understands that protecting our safety and freedom sometimes requires a police presence or military action. But he offers this reminder: "Real freedom lies in the thin space that separates an American citizen from an armed member of their government."

Unfortunately, as domestic policing grows, that space gets thinner.

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  1. Papieren, bitte.

    1. You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca, but somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.

      1. +1 Peter Lorre

    2. I say once again, this is exactly the sort of BS that was supposed to make the Soviet Union evil.

      Had enough America?

      1. Exactly. I wonder how long before Tony or someone like him comes along to explain to us how this is different from the special border zones of the Soviet Union where you had to have papers at hand to prove you were allowed to be there. Granted, we are trying to stop people from coming in and the Soviets were trying to keep them from going out, but we arrive at the same solution?

    3. In my experience, they don’t even bother with the bitte pleasantries.

  2. The border patrol will have to be moved inland soon, since there won’t be anyone left to cross the border, north of Panama.

    When Central America is completely empty, I plan to buy a few hectares in one of the vacated nations and live off the land.

  3. The Supreme Court ruled that the Border Patrol can set up “inland” checkpoints anywhere up to 100 miles from an external border of the United States.

    “One hundred miles of imbeciles is enough.”

  4. My copy of the constitution clearly reads “Thou shalt put aside any and all concerns about the size, scope, and funding of government if there are brown people to harass, domestically or abroad.”

    1. huh, I agree with this. Now I think I will contemplate seppuku.

      1. Tony didn’t mean to be right about something, but it sometimes accidentally happens.

        It’s the fact that he believes that a bigger more oppressive government will lead to ending things like that, that is baffling.

        1. Even broken clocks are right twice a day.

        2. I reject the idea that there is something meaningful to the concept of bigger vs. smaller government. Government either does something or it doesn’t. It’s not going to relinquish its primary functions like having a monopoly on legitimate force.

          You just have to not elect nativist dumbfucks. As they’ve clearly demonstrated, their hot air about small government is just that and nothing else.

          1. I reject the idea that there is something meaningful to the concept of bigger vs. smaller government

            This is because of your lack of ability for critical thinking.

            1. This is because of your lack of ability for critical thinking.

              They fire teachers for spreading that crap at Government Education Facilities.

            2. I lack an affinity for bullshit slogans.

              1. I lack an affinity for bullshit slogans.

                Couldn’t have been better if Kool-Aid man himself had said it.

              2. Actually, I must admit I love them, especially when they come from the Great and Magnanimous Obama.

          2. “I reject the idea that there is something meaningful to the concept of bigger vs. smaller government. Government either does something or it doesn’t. It’s not going to relinquish its primary functions like having a monopoly on legitimate force.”

            While this reads as the incoherent babbling of a homeless crackhead with a philosophy degree. The second part:

            “You just have to not elect nativist dumbfucks. As they’ve clearly demonstrated, their hot air about small government is just that and nothing else.”

            is pretty much spot on so that’s two things he got right, the clock theory is in full effect.

            1. I wouldn’t say the second part is entirely spot on. Every democrat in office is a nativist unwilling to eliminate protectionist immigration law.

            2. Wait! He was only talking about the Republican nativist dumbfucks, the Democrat nativist dumbfucks are the good guys!

          3. Then why do embrace “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

    2. Tony’s copy of the constitution clearly reads whatever Tony’s political agenda requires. The one in his head, anyway.

    3. Comments like this are why I think “Tony” isn’t a single person. Aside from the total incongruity with the content of other Tony posts, the style is much different.

      1. Yeah, ‘Tony’ is clearly a sock puppet run by some proglodyte idiots.

      2. Half of me thinks T o n y is a sock of Episiarch. Or Sugarfree. Just because they like to sadistically torture the commentariat.

        The other half of me is bored to tears.

        1. Hmmmm…. I’d have to say SF. As an author, he might just have the patience to pull it off.

          Epi would have revealed himself and gloated/laughed in our gullible faces by now.

        2. I, ??n?, am not who you think I am. But I agree that Tony is a sock puppet in love with the Great and Holy Father, Obama the Magnificent, Defender of the True Progressive Faith and Protector of the Blessed Government of Top Men, Peace Be Upon Him.

    4. Hmmm… somebody must have scratched out “brown” in my copy.

  5. “nothing left to cut.”

  6. http://www.hollywoodreporter.c…..ork-723722

    Suck it, Robert Redford.

    1. Everyone should pay more taxes, especially the EVUL RICH! Except for me, not me!!!

    2. Yeah, fuck you Redford, you big-government high-tax lefty ginger.

    3. Lol, taxes are for the little people.

    4. Multi-state taxation is multi-state taxation. If there’s nexus, you owe it. Nexus is defined by the States. Any ability to do any sort of pro-ration is at the State’s magnanimity. One can easily pay state tax on over 100% of the their income if the pro-rations work out that way. If both NY and Utah want to define taxable income as including that income, without offset, well, that’s how the tax cookie crumbles. The Feds have stepped in occasionally, but not universally, or completely halt getting the same income taxed by multi-jurisdictions.

      1. I thought the Constitution included a clause that allowed the Federal government to restrict the ability of states to unduly burden commerce, but I must have confused it with the clause that allows them to forbid a farmer from consuming the wheat he grew on his own farm.

    5. I dunno. This does seem like overreach on the part of New York.

  7. Another major problem is that a police dog’s “reaction” to something is enough probable cause in this country to search a vehicle. A good trainer can get a dog to “react” to the slightest of cues from him/her, however, and search every single vehicle s/he wants.

    Based on these “probable cause” findings of a well-trained dog, people’s assets are subject to civil seizure (I know, I’m mixing up the things to be outraged about here).

  8. I think about the American revolution and how people revolted against that experience of oppression and wonder now how people tolerate the US government now, but then I realize it was the elites who really instigated the break with England because their interests were threatened. Nowadays, the interest of the elites lies with the status quo, the main purpose of which is to protect their interests. That is the reason there will never be any uprising against the governing class.

    1. Idk, the thing in the desert in Arizona (Clive Bundy) gave me a little hope.

  9. I have a solution to the problems with our International Border with Mexico. Here it is.

    Part I Give the entire Southwestern United States back to Mexico. That would be the territory we took from them when we invaded Mexico in 1846, to include all of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and half of Colorado. And yes, throw Texas in there too, since that used to belong to Mexico. Then pay them what it is worth in today’s market, and not what we paid them at the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848.

    Part II A new border between The United States of America would then be created along the old Adams-Onis Line of 1819, meaning the legal border between Mexico and the U.S. before the invasion of 1846. Anyone NOT wanting to live in the expanded Nation of Mexico could leave the area and relocate north of the new border. Of course the new border between Mexico and the U.S. would consist of: A barrier of Mine Fields, with new Ports of Entry.

    With that done, new countries could be created north of the new border, LATER. The U.S. would eventually be consigned to the Belt Way as a special museum. In other words, the U.S. as it is today would no longer exist. That’s right folks, new sovereign nations would be created. For starters, “Old Dixie” (without the slaves) would certainly be resurrected. I will leave it to the five star intellect of our posters to decide what new countries could be created north of a new border.

    1. I’ve got a better idea – instead of assuming that we’re slaves who ‘belong’ to one nation or another, how about taking the boot off our necks, putting the gun away, and letting us free of your yoke?

      I don’t understand WTF you would think that allowing the rest of the US to fragment and seek its own destiny is OK, but the southwest *has* to go back to Mexico for any reason.

  10. A Terry Bressi is doing great work on this subject at:

    Look him up on YouTube as well.

    This guy has testicles.

    Our “Border Patrol” is NOT our best friend. Far from it.

  11. Many of these same residents implore the government to ‘protect the borders’ from poor laborers. Don’t like the government’s tactics, tough cookie!! Everything bad that happens in amerika at the hands of the government happens with the complicity or ignorance of the people. Enjoy the police state you create and continue to nourish.

  12. They want citizens to move away from the border so they can traffic the illegal immigrants without scrutiny.

  13. For those interested in the full video and details of my lawsuit against the Border Patrol, please visit: http://www.veteransagainstpoli…..ppeal.aspx

  14. Oh, and another thing: Why must we continue to blow smoke up the bums of these people by calling them “agents”, and worse, “special agents”?

    FBI?DEA?Border Patrol?.they’re freak’n government employees. They are NOT self-employed entrepreneurs like your local State Farm agent.

    It’s the same with “officer” and “trooper”. They’re “EMPLOYEES”.

  15. You are not required to speak to them. You are not required to consent to searches. Carry a video recording device, and tape everything, to prevent the officials from lying about probable cause. (Because they will lie.) If enough Americans showed some backbone and stood up to these stops, the BP will soon find that they are totally unproductive and generate a lot of hostility and bad press against them.

    As for Peter King, he should be ashamed of himself. What a tool. What a maroon. If he can’t tell the difference between strict enforcement of our immigration laws and these idiotic checkpoints, he doesn’t deserve to be in public office. He’s one of the shining examples for why I won’t support Republicans, even if they are often the lesser evil.

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