Opinion: Long Range Reach of US Border Patrol

Most people think of the border as a distant line that marks the outer edge of the United States. This is not how the US government sees it. The border is officially defined as zone which extends 100 miles into the interior of the United States from all outer borders.

In this vast area – spanning 10 states, cities like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, and nearly two-thirds of the nation’s population – the Border Patrol has vast, almost uncontrollable powers.

A recent Supreme Court decision Egbert vs. boule, emphasized these powers. A border guard agent approached a Turkish guest at a hotel in Washington state. When the hotel owner, a US citizen, asked the agent to leave, the agent pushed him into the car and then threw him to the ground. The man filed a lawsuit, but the court ruled that even when the constitutional rights of an American citizen are violated by a federal agent, there is no right to sue if the violation occurred while on duty as an agent.

With this decision, the Supreme Court added to a decade of precedent that allowed the border guard to barely comply with the Constitution, especially its 4th The amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Border Patrol is not deployed at ports of entry and airports where there are operational customs and border guards. Instead, the Border Patrol controls immigration between checkpoints. In the 100-mile border zone, his agents stop cars if they have “reasonable suspicions” about passengers. When they set up internal checkpoints, everyone must stop for questioning and checking. And they use racial profiling to upload.

This is not what Congress envisioned when it created the Border Patrol in 1924. The original authorization stated that the agent could “arrest any alien who, in his presence or before his eyes, enters or attempts to enter the United States in violation of any law.”

Sen. David A. Reed, a Republican from Pennsylvania, explained during a Senate debate in 1925 on a law that border agents could only operate near the very border: arrest them. He continued: “We are all on guard not to give these officials too much power to act without a warrant.”

However, the second clause in the Border Guard’s permit allowed agents to extend their authority beyond the border line. They could “land and search” any “vehicle” they believed was carrying “aliens” into the United States.

The broad jurisdiction of the agents was unpopular with frontier residents and in Congress. In 1946, the powers of the Border Patrol were revised: it could operate within the United States, but only “at a reasonable distance from any outer frontier.”

Unfortunately, next year the routine interpretation of politics in Federal Register establish a “reasonable distance” of 100 miles from borders and coastlines. Border Patrol agents were free to “board and search” any vehicle inland.

At the time, there were so few Border Patrol agents that the agency’s seemingly unconstitutional powers were neglected for decades. Finally, in the 1970s, the conflict between 4th The amendment and permission from the Border Patrol Congress reached the Supreme Court.

AT Almeida-Sanchez vs. United States (1973) the court reined in the agents, at least when it came to formal searches. In a 5-4 decision, the judges stated that the Border Patrol needed consent, a warrant, or probable cause to conduct a search, just like other police officers.

Two years later in United States vs. Brignoni Ponce, the judges counted the stops of the border guard. Could they be based solely on the race of the occupiers?

In a unanimous decision, the judges said “no”, but did not rule out race as a criterion. To meet the “reasonable suspicion” standard, the court needed two factors, and one of them could be race. The list of other acceptable factors they provided was so wide that it actually allowed the agents to stop almost any vehicle under any circumstances in the border area.

In 1976 United States vs. Martinez Fuerte checked the constitutionality of fixed or temporary border guard checkpoints installed at a distance of 25 to 100 miles from the border. Resolution? At the checkpoint, agents can stop each “vehicle” to question people about their immigration status and inspect the vehicles from the outside. Based on a single factor of suspicion, they may stop someone for a more thorough interrogation. Only race meets this standard.

Today, there are more than 19,000 border guard agents, and the prevention of terrorism and the fight against drugs, in addition to immigration, have become top priorities.

In a 100-mile border zone, a Hispanic driver can be considered suspicious enough because he stares at a passing agent or because he won’t make eye contact. Mobile stops should not even be based on anything related to the vehicle in question, but only on the characteristics of the terrain.

At 113 internal border checkpoints, what an agent sees in your backseat could lead to you being pulled over for further investigation, which could very well end in a body search – most people agree when asked; they don’t know they can refuse, or that the agents need a good reason to open their trunk otherwise.

At many checkpoints, agents use dogs to search for drugs, radiation detectors to search for dirty bombs, and collect license numbers that are stored in a database for 15 years. And now agents are protected from prosecution even for egregious violations of the constitutional rights of immigrants and citizens.

The lack of restrictions on the border service should be of concern to all Americans. As the Supreme Court has pointed out, Congress has granted permission to the agency, and Congress can reduce or rescind it.

A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to reduce the frontier zone to 25 miles from the outer limits. An even smaller zone might be appropriate given that 58% of arrests occur within one mile of the border.

Congress should also draft new legislation that would end immunity from lawsuits for federal agents violating constitutional rights and should ban the use of internal security checkpoints, according to data from the Border Patrol. primarily to trap American citizens traveling across the country and carrying small amounts of drugs.

Even if Congress does not take action, the closure of internal checkpoints and a significant reduction in the size of the border zone can be carried out by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security within his powers of Congress.

The Border Guard has not yet begun to broadly extend its authority to major cities in the 100-mile border zone. But he could. Before there is a new checkpoint in Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York, we must rethink its capacity.

Rhys Jones is professor of geography and the environment at the University of Hawaii and author of Nobody’s Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police in the United States.