Border zone

Border Control Installs Camera On Man's Property Without Asking. When He Takes It Down, They Demand It Back. Now He's Suing.

Ricardo Palacios is fighting for his right to be left alone.

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Cameras
June74/Dreamstime.com

The government's efforts to stop illegal immigration keep coming at the expense of the property and privacy rights of landowners along the border. Just ask Ricardo Palacios.

The 74-year-old attorney and rancher has experienced an ongoing stream of harassment and intrusions from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at his cattle ranch, located just north of Laredo, Texas. Palacios claims that CBP agents have repeatedly entered his ranch without warrants and questioned his family members as they enter and leave the property. At one point, he says, they assaulted Palacios' son following a late-night traffic stop.

The last straw came in November 2017, when Palacios found a small surveillance camera affixed to a Mesquite tree on his property. When Palacios removed the device, he was contacted by the CBP and by the Texas Rangers, both claiming ownership of the camera and threatening Palacios' arrest if it were not returned.

Faced with conflicting ownership claims for the camera and the possibility of arrest, Palacios sued both agencies in December 2017.

"We are asking a judge to tell the federal government, specifically Border Patrol, to stay off our client's property without permission, without a court order," says David Almaraz, one of the attorneys representing Palacios.

The lawsuit claims that through their repeated, unsanctioned intrusions onto his property, CBP agents are guilty of criminal trespassing and of violating the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on warrantless and unreasonable searches. He seeks $500,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, plus a judicial declaration that immigration officials cannot enter Palacios' property without a warrant or his consent.

Almaraz says that his clients' problems with Border Patrol started when the agency moved a permanent checkpoint it maintained on I-35 from 13 miles north of border to 29 miles north of the border, far closer to the Palacios ranch. In April 2010, Palacios sent a letter to the local CBP chief complaining of agents performing aggressive, suspicionless traffic stops, repeatedly trespassing onto his property, and damaging the barbed-wire fences enclosing his ranch.

The letter also claims that Border Patrol agents assaulted one of his sons after he declined to answer questions at a traffic stop. According to Palacios, the CBP pulled the man from his vehicle, threw him to the ground while he was handcuffed, and locked him in a cell for over an hour.

"He had many, many incidences where he found Border Patrol walking around his property at night with flashlights right outside his house," Almaraz tells Reason. "Sometimes they would leave. Other times they would say, 'We can do whatever we want.'"

According to the lawsuit, the Border Patrol would insist that they were allowed to enter the property without a warrant because they were within the 25-mile zone. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 gives immigration officials the power to enter without a warrant any private property within 25 miles of an external boundary "for the purpose of patrolling the border to prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States."

Palacios argues that this is immaterial because his property sits some 35 miles from the border, something Almaraz says "anyone can look at a map and see." Even if he were within the zone, though, he could make a compelling argument that the government is exceeding its statutory limits.

"The question becomes what 'entry for the purpose of patrolling' means," says Chris Rickerd of the American Civil Liberties Union. The CBP has adopted an extremely broad definition of this provision: cutting fencing, conducting traffic stops on private property, even clearing vegetation and making permanent alterations to the landscape.

The installation of cameras and other recording devices without a property owner's consent, the CBP likewise claims, is allowed as part of their patrolling authority. The Texas Department of Public Safety, in conjunction with CBP, has placed over 5,000 cameras along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of these cameras are installed on private property, with CBP refusing to disclose to property owners when and where they are placed.

When the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed, Rickerd argues, "they weren't considering this sort of surveillance."

Ultimately, says Almaraz, the lawsuit is about preserving Palacios' right to live in peace.

"He just wants to be left alone, wants to be left to his privacy, to his ranch," says Almaraz. "He's 74, he's almost retired. He just wants the government to stay away from his property and not put cameras everywhere."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article referred to Customs and Border Protection as Customs and Border Patrol. Border Patrol is an agency within CBP.

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  1. Sorry Raisin, but I’ve been assured by many knowledgeable people that a tightly clenched border is is how the government protects property rights.

    1. is how the government protects property rights

      I’m sure his property rights would be much more respected South of the border or, hell, in pretty much any country in the world. You can’t physically point to the jurisdiction the court really has to hear his case so it must be an unnatural social construct, right? Best to let him deal with the armed thugs of the CBP all on his lonesome. I’m sure, at 74, he’ll do fine.

      1. Sorry, is there a point buried somewhere in that rant?

        1. “I’m gonna be an asshole about this because I don’t like it when people insult America. That and the Border Patrol is one of my sacred cows so FUCK YOU.”

          1. Because Hugh’s stance was clearly and directly anti-CBP while, simultaneously offering anything resembling a libertarian position other than “Waaaah Borders!”?

            1. It’d be fun to watch a bunch of you try to pass an ideological Turing test on this issue.

              1. This issue is the halting function of the ideological Turing test.

        2. Point being, since other places are fascist Hell-holes, the USA should be one too! ‘Cause illegal humans and stuff!!!!

          1. CBP does fascist shit. Reason highlights the part of the story that’s actually mostly civil and libertarian-ish.

        3. Observing full respect for all the tenets of libertarianism, who gets the camera and how do we decide?

          1. Give it to Crusty and force everyone involved to watch the resulting videos.

            EVERYONE.

            1. That’s a good way to get called before a tribunal in The Hague.

              1. This would end with Crusty declaring the proceedings illegal and drinking poison before the verdict is announced.

              2. You are slacking Citizen. You forgot to add your little quip.

            2. If I found one on our property, my wife and I would have sex in front of it for hours every day.

              I hope everyone realizes if they turn on the camera in their cellphones and scan the area at night, the infrared LEDs around the spycam’s lens pinpoints its location like a spotlight on the phone’s screen.

          2. Its pretty obvious – we need to get both parties together and tell them that we’ll split the camera down the middle and they each get half.

            The one who gives up the camera first was obviously the real mother.

          3. It’s abandoned property. Or trespass. One or the other. Or both. Either way, the CBP is welcome to make him a financial offer for the camera.

      2. Actually, they are.

        At least by the Mexican border patrol equivalent.

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    2. That might mean something if the property at issue in the case the article was about was actually on the boarder, it’s not.

      1. Exactly. it’s not on the border and isn’t even on the pseudo border 25 miles in.

        1. And yet the Border Patrol regularly trespassed on this guy’s property anyway. Almost like they plenary authority to run roughshod over peoples’ rights because something something border security.

      2. Why? Private property ends within 25 miles of the border?

        1. According to your government, no. Just your constitutional rights end. You get to stay on your property whilst it’s invaded.

          1. AND pay taxes on it.

          2. Newsflash: The government doesn’t have much respect for your property rights within 25 miles of any given internal border either.

    3. I mean if they can force regulations on employers in the name of stopping illegal humans from entering ‘Merica, why can’t they force regulations on private individuals?

      If they can spy on everyone in the country without a warrant, what makes you think they can’t spy on everyone’s land?

      Get with the program man… these people are terking er jerbs and welfares!

    4. I notice that not too many of our anti-immigration friends are making an appearance here.

      1. [Enjoys the soothing sounds of crickets]

      2. I have this far missed Tony’s appearance speaking of the plenipotentiary government benevolence.

      3. I think you mean “anti-immigration fiends”.

    5. Yep, you know, it almost sounds like building a wall would simplify enforcement, and further reduce the CBP impetus to bother property owners.

      Heck why stop there ? Since law enforcement has overstepped their authority on virtually every law at some point, it obviously means every law should be eliminated.

      Fixed !

  2. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 gives immigration officials the power to enter without a warrant any private property within 25 miles of an external boundary “for the purpose of patrolling the border to prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States.”

    Um… wow. God bless America. Remind me never purchase land within 25 35 miles of the border.

    1. According to the law’s wiki page, Truman vetoed it because it was “un-American”. His veto order also included the following:

      In no other realm of our national life are we so hampered and stultified by the dead hand of the past, as we are in this field of immigration.

      1. “According to the law’s wiki page, Truman vetoed it because it was “un-American”

        That would the same President Truman who tried to nationalize the steel industry.

        1. So… that means the veto was wrong? I don’t get it.

          1. Hillary would have been worse.

            1. You know, this sentence could follow just about anything and be valid. Try it.

              1. … among lefties. Hillary would have been worse.

                1. Hillary could have been worse, among lefties, in bed.

          2. The implication is that this law must be really bad if someone who was in favor of government control of the means of production thought it was bad.

        2. Surely you don’t mean to imply that a politician was an inconsistent hypocrite. Where’s my shocked face?

    2. According to that Act’s wiki page, Truman vetoed it because it was “un-American”. His veto order also contained the following passage:

      In no other realm of our national life are we so hampered and stultified by the dead hand of the past, as we are in this field of immigration.

      1. d’oh

    3. It’s a Constitution Free Zone

    4. The Supreme Court has made it a 100 mile Constitution-free zone. The CBP laughs at his 35 mile wet dream.

      1. Only 100 miles… HAHAHA… Surely you jest!

        1. Isn’t Nevada a border state? This is sheer asshattery.

          1. Sheer Asshattery was the name of my store when I sold male appurtenances.

    5. Remind me never purchase land within 25 35 miles of the border.

      Better make that 100 miles. They claim they can stop anyone traveling within 100 miles of the border for any reason, and the courts have upheld that bullshit.

      1. And it’s bullshit, having lived in a large city within 100 miles of the border.

      2. No, it’s private property within -25- 35 miles of the border, or persons up to 100 miles of the border, no warrant needed.

        1. persons up to 100 miles of the border, no warrant needed.

          Or an airport
          Or a government building
          Or the District of Columbia
          etc
          etc

          There is a reason the constitution is in a museum – – – – – – – –

  3. Other times they would say, ‘We can do whatever we want.’

    Which is the entire point of going into law enforcement. Once you’ve got that badge you can literally do whatever you want. It’s not like anyone will stop you.

    1. Oh yeah? Well just wait a few years until the next election when I vote for the guy from the other party. That’ll show them!

    2. I read once that border patrol agents refer to Maglites as “tonks,” because that’s the sound it makes when you hit a migrant in the head with one.

      1. So, I tried to look it up, but the first thing I got was a far too fawning description of a Harry Potter Character.

        1. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

        2. I… Will… Not… Click…

        3. For BUCS there is virtually no friction between any topic and Harry Potter slashfic.

          1. You can remove “Harry Potter” from that sentence and it becomes more honest.

            1. Detentionaire slashfic?

              …please continue.

          2. Well, there’s SOME friction, or else what would be the point?

            1. Raw dog it all day every day.

            2. Let’s not forget BUCS is an affictionado of extreme edging.

              1. I haven’t come since midnight – y2k. And I’m saving it up for y3k.

                1. Y2k and y3k are obscure new genres of deep porn that BUCS has discovered. They are only technically legal in Uzbekistan and North Korea.

  4. No police state is too opressive as long as it stops just one foreigner from coming here and getting a job.

    1. Thank you. I will use that excellent line with my friends.

    2. DEY TERK ER JERBS!

        1. toorkordor?

  5. 1. Remove camera.
    2. Shovel.
    3. Shut up.

    1. Yeah, it seems like a camera out in the wild on your ranch could meet with quite a number of cheap, efficient accidents of unprovable cause.

      1. Not really. Something like that is not going to be molested by animals and is protected from the weather. Human action is about the only thing that could harm it.

        1. Human action is about the only thing that could harm it.

          I admit to not having cared for a ranch in Texas, but it seems like it would be exceedingly simple to accidentally knock it out of the tree with a tractor or other farm implement and not realize what had happened until it came out from under the tire. People fell mesquite trees and use them for firewood, right? If the crows had been molesting his wife’s garden, I’m certain that in the morning light it was a crow that he blasted out of the tree.

      2. Mesquite trees are flammable and attract lightning.

    2. I’d take the Bugs Bunny approach and take a picture from near the camera and permanently install it just in front of the camera.

  6. That’s why it costs so much to secure the border: the CBP insists on using medium format cameras for surveillance.

    1. Hassle-bads, eh?

    2. Every conspiracy I see that supposes incredible intelligence and guile on the part of government is refuted by all the stuff we actually see them do.

      1. All the dumb stuff is just cover to distract from the REALLY bad conspiracies! Also, jet fuel can’t melt steel beams.

        1. It wasn’t the beams that melted, it was the bolts holding the floor sections to the outer columns, and they wouldn’t need to melt, just soften enough that they couldn’t hold the weight of the floor.

          1. Glad to see someone finally telling Citizen Juggler to shut the fuck up.

          2. You must be in the pocket of Big Bush!

            1. “in”? These euphemisms!

            2. You know BUCS is all about the big bush.

      2. Our best defense from government malice is government incompetence.

  7. “The question becomes what ‘entry for the purpose of patrolling’ means,” says Chris Rickerd of the American Civil Liberties Union.

    It means what the State says it means, because the State is here to protect American values from ugly foreigners who are alien to property rights and apple pie. The State is also irony-impaired.

  8. Congress should eminent domain an area inside the wall for border patrol and then only help those private property owners that want to set up surveillance etc. Leave property owners like mentioned above alone. Set up cameras along public roads and then wait for probable cause to stop vehicles to check for illegals.

    Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done once illegals are inside the USA unless there is some probable cause. Cut welfare and this will gradually limit the numbers.

    The 35 mile and 100 mile internal border zones are bullshit. Border protection is constitutional but violating people’s 4th Amendment protections is not constitutional.

      1. Among citizens.

      2. Citizen juggler, you forgot to add your quip to some of your comments.

        Get busy living or get busy dying.

        1. Get busy living or get busy dying among lefties.

          Happy?

    1. “Congress should eminent domain an area inside the wall for border patrol… Set up cameras along public roads and then wait for probable cause to stop vehicles to check for illegals.”

      The solution is always more government with you people.

      1. Eminent domain is in the Constitution. The border needs to be secured more.

        Feel free to offer solutions that allow shoring up America’s borders.

        1. The border needs to be secured more.

          [citation needed]

          1. Yeah. All one needs to do is to make employment of undocumented workers very uncomfortable for the employers. Then make all drugs legal. Then, no border patrol needed.

            1. You’re halfway there.

              1. Yeah, I was thinking some wage normalization/standard eradication would help, further weakening the links between unionization and public policy, at least slowing down the social safety net, and putting an end to the public education debacle (whatever that means) would/could substitute in whole or in part for either of his other two.

                1. Slowing down the growth of the safety net. The thing was built and is supposed to run on demographics that immigration can and does specifically fuck up.

        2. Shoring up against what? People who want to come here and live and work? Drugs which should be legal to purchase here? Boogeyman from ISIS?

          At least you’re not denying your preference to a big govt solution to “problems” it created in the first place.

  9. Two words: ‘land mines”

  10. Government acting with legitimate government purpose and specific statutory authority.

    The patrols should lighten up once we have The Wall.

    1. All in all you’re just another…

      Brick in the Wall!

      1. If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

      2. You!

        Yes, you!

        Stand still, laddie!

    2. and specific statutory authority.

      Actually, it’s pretty clear that they don’t have that, which is why the guy is suing.

  11. Thanks. This should make it a LOT easier to motivate resident aliens to contribute to Libertarian candidate campaigns. Once they see that the kleptocracy parties only compete to see who can most quickly lick the blacking off of Communist Border Police jackboots.

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  13. Next time he discovers ond of those shiney new toys, note where it is, don’t get in front of it, find a way back to it a couple days leter but from the side away from the lens. Take out your trusty Model 94 in thutty thutty and see how many rounds it takes to shatter it from behind. Leave the pieces there, put on a pair of cheap old beach shoes or something like, before you dismount, then search the area carefully for spent brass and/or slugs. Retrieve anything you can find. Best if you have two similar rifles, take one of them out for work like that, fire the other one at your home range, then if they come to you asking if you have a thirty thirty rifle, let them see the second one… ballistics will PROVE the second one is not the first. No connexion.

    Maybe after a dozen or so of their toys vanish from off the face of the earth, they”ll leave him alone.

    1. Or maybe after the first one they will just asset forfeiture his whole ranch and leaving him standing on the side of the road with nothing. If they are in a bad mood that day, they might claim his meds are not prescription, and lock him up for 72 hours while they evaluate he is nuts.

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  17. Please keep your readers advised on the progress of this case.

  18. This is a strange incident, I did not think that the border service can behave like this. I think that this is the right decision to prove and defend their rights in court. Heard of the border service now include best mirrorless cameras

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