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DHS Backs Away from Proposed Permanent Southern Arizona Checkpoint

Written by Subject: Homeland Security

According to the Arizona Daily Star article included below, The Department of Homeland Security is temporarily backing off from plans to build a permanent suspicionless federal roadblock on a Southern Arizona highway.

Initially, the Border Patrol had proposed placing an interim four million dollar roadblock facility just North of Arivaca near kilometer post 50 on I-19. After a huge uproar from local residents and governing bodies, including the Pima County Board of Supervisors, the Border Patrol is now stating they will maintain their temporary facility near kilometer post 42 for the indefinite future while plans for a permanent facility are re-assessd.

I've included a link to the article below, along with the full text. While reading the article, keep the following points in mind:

* Any new federal roadblock along Southern Arizona's I-19 would be redundant. The Nogales Port of Entry has been in operation for years and monitors the same traffic any new interior checkpoint would for the same geographic area. Why should we believe that yet another federal checkpoint placed in close proximity to existing checkpoints would have any greater long lasting effect on illegal traffic than current checkpoints do?

While supporters will point out that interior checkpoints find illegal traffic on a regular basis, we know that despite a ten fold increase in Border Patrol personnel, huge budget increases and huge leaps in technology there are still as many illegal aliens in the country today as there were in the 1970's. This according to the government's own figures. Increased enforcement has had no discernible effect on the stated problem. As such, isn't it time to re-evaluate the policy instead of doing the same old thing over and over again while expecting a different result?

* The recently scrapped roadblock plans would have placed the roadblock North of Arivaca Junction and Amado. This means local residents would have been significantly affected by the checkpoint not to mention under constant federal scrutiny regarding their traveling habits. The current status quo isn't much better though. The temporary facility is still North of Tubac and Tumacacon and unreasonably interferes with the traveling and privacy rights of Americans inside the interior of the country.

That's why we have ports of entry - to check the status of individuals coming into the country while leaving those already here and not suspected of any crime, alone. If the Border Patrol wants to stop illegal traffic, they would be better served beefing up border enforcement instead of harassing thousands of legitimate travelers inside the interior of the country on a daily basis.

* Arizona Congressional District 8 Representative Gabrielle Giffords still doesn't get it. The article indicates Giffords categorizes the change in plan as a major concession by the Border Patrol but it's clear this is not the case. The Border Patrol is merely waiting for the uproar to die down while continuing with failed business as usual and waiting for the next opportunity to expand operations into the interior of the country.
* Giffords once again uses the pretext of illegal narcotics as an excuse for legitimizing interior Homeland Security checkpoints which interfere with the right to privacy and travel that every American (used to) enjoy. She does this despite the fact interior drug checkpoints have consistently been ruled illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court. That the U.S. Supreme Court only approved Fourth Amendment loopholes for interior Border Patrol checkpoints that are limited in scope to checking immigration status.

Why then would Giffords continue to use the specter of the failed war on some drugs as an excuse to justify interior Homeland Security checkpoints? Giffords also fails to account for the fact that a significant amount of illegal traffic can be directly attributed to corruption in the Department of Homeland Security itself. So who watches the watchers? Apparently not our elected representative Gabrielle Giffords.

* The Santa Cruz County Sheriff is on record in his opposition to a permanent Homeland Security checkpoint in his county. What I don't see mentioned however is the fact that before any federal agent can legally enforce Arizona laws, they must be cross-certified by the county sheriff. While immigration checks don't fall under the jurisdiction of State law, directing traffic at suspicionless federal checkpoints does. Directing traffic on a State highway is a State or local law enforcement function. If a federal agent does it without having individualized suspicion of wrongdoing before initiating a stop, that agent is violating State law if he/she is not cross-certified.

Further, State law leaves it solely to the discretion of the County Sheriff on whether or not to allow cross-certification. As such, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff could put an immediate stop to interior federal checkpoints in his county by refusing to cross-certify Homeland Security agents to direct traffic and arresting any agent who does.

* In the article, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik comes out in support of interior Homeland Security checkpoints. This is the same county sheriff who stopped conducting sobriety checkpoints in Pima County for over ten years because they were ineffective but suddenly changed his tune when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offered to fully fund sobriety checkpoint operations in Pima County.

Ever since the first $50,000 federal grant for checkpoint overtime pay rolled in, Dupnik hasn't looked back. As such, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Sheriff Dupnik would refrain from biting the federal hand that feeds him by coming out in support of Homeland Security roadblocks designed to intimidate and control the traveling public.

Given these points, the Arizona Daily Star article in question appears below:

Permanent checkpoint at Amado dropped
Patrol bows to concerns of residents, altering plans

By Brady McCombs
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.22.2007

Death in the Desert

The ongoing saga over a proposed permanent Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 19 took another turn Friday as the agency agreed to continue using its interim facility north of Tubac and scale down plans for a permanent facility.

In a letter dated Thursday to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., Chief Robert W. Gilbert of the Border Patrol Tucson Sector said the agency had reassessed the location of the interim checkpoint and the size of the permanent facility.

The change came in response to recommendations made by a group of residents who spent more than four months studying the issue, Gilbert said.

Instead of opening an interim facility at kilometer post 50 near Amado, as the Border Patrol said in early July it would do the agency will operate north of Tubac at kilometer post 41.5 or 42, about five miles to the south, where it has been manning a checkpoint since November, Gilbert said.

"After revisiting proposed site locations, the sector has determined the interim checkpoint will best serve the operational requirements of the Border Patrol and the concerns of the surrounding communities by remaining at kilometer 42 or just south at kilometer 41.5," Gilbert wrote. "This will ensure that operational adjustments and technology investments already made at the kilometer 42 site will continue to contribute to the effective mitigation of traffic associated with the checkpoint."

Currently, agents there stand beneath an overpass for cover from sun and rain, use cones to guide traffic and use a trailer as an office. But the agency plans to begin converting that checkpoint into a more stable interim facility, said Richard DeWitt, Border Patrol Tucson Sector spokesman.

It remains unclear, however, if the agency will construct the interim facility there that it had planned for near Amado.

That plan included the construction of a 110-by-120-foot canopy and was expected to cost about $2 million. It was to be used for three to five years until the agency gets the funding and permits needed for a permanent checkpoint on I-19.

The Border Patrol remains committed to building a permanent checkpoint on I-19 but the location is up in the air, DeWitt said. Kilometer posts 50 or 51, near Amado, are unlikely sites, he said.

"We're not committed anywhere," DeWitt said. "We are still searching for a suitable location."

In the letter, Gilbert wrote that he thinks the agency will be able to build a permanent facility smaller than a checkpoint in Laredo, Texas, that had been used as a model.

"I would like to reassure you that although our office has not identified a location for a permanent checkpoint facility, that we will seek to minimize the size of the footprint to the extent possible while maintaining the operational ability to effectively and efficiently facilitate legitimate traffic."

Giffords called the change of plans a major concession that shows the Border Patrol responded to concerns from her and from residents in the I-19 corridor that the facility should not be located in a densely-populated area.

"It means that the Border Patrol has discarded its plan to build this large, Laredo-style checkpoint that had concerned so many citizens," Giffords said. "It also means that it's being moved closer to the border."

On Aug. 21 at the final public forum hosted by a group organized by Giffords to study the issue, two committees in the group offered conflicting opinions.

One committee studying the checkpoint delivered a full endorsement, deeming permanent inspection stations efficient deterrents to illegal immigration and a necessity to prevent terrorism. Another committee researching alternatives expressed its total opposition, citing doubts about the effectiveness of permanent checkpoints.

Giffords has stopped short of pledging unconditional support for a permanent checkpoint. On Thursday, she said she supports it only with conditions: that it be stationary, allowing for smooth traffic flow, and be located away from a major population center, equipped with technology and personnel, and accompanied by public-safety plans for nearby communities.

Checkpoints are an important tool for Homeland Security and are effective in making arrests and drug seizures, Giffords has said.

"I know this outcome isn't going to make everyone happy, but I'm very concerned about where Southern Arizona is in terms of the smuggling of people and drugs."

Some residents in the I-19 corridor have criticized Giffords for not taking a firm stance.

"What took her so long to make a decision?" said Jim DiGiacomo, executive director of the Greater Green Valley Chamber of Commerce.

He is among a large contingent of residents who oppose permanent checkpoints, saying they would be ineffective and detrimental to business, and would push smuggling activity into their neighborhoods.

"Putting it anywhere on I-19 is like putting a Band-Aid on a severed thigh," said DiGiacomo. "They are just going to go around it."

Longtime Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada also has questioned the need for a permanent checkpoint.

DiGiacomo said he's disappointed in the leadership of the Border Patrol and Giffords and other legislators he says are doing what they want regardless of residents' opinions.

Moving the interim checkpoint farther from Green Valley didn't ease his concerns.

"Are they are just trying to pacify us?" he said.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik praised Giffords for supporting checkpoints despite the stiff opposition.

"It is very long overdue," said Dupnik, Pima County's sheriff for 27 years. "I-19 is now, and has been for very many years, a superhighway of contraband from Mexico."

Patti O'Berry, a Green Valley resident and ardent supporter of the Border Patrol, said the location of a permanent facility is inconsequential.

"As long as there is a permanent checkpoint that will do the job that needs to be done and the Border Patrol feels comfortable with that decision, then I stand behind them 100 percent," said O'Berry, whose son is a Border Patrol agent. "If, on the other hand, they've been steamrolled into being forced into a decision, then shame on whoever twisted that arm."


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