Over the past several months, I've been criticized by many who prefer the mere illusion of security over essential liberty.
my alleged failure to cooperate with the suspicionless seizure of my
person and effects at internal Homeland Security checkpoints has
infuriated and befuddled those who believe in the omnipotent power of
the state and that, by definition, federal agents can do no wrong.
Several who have criticized these videotaped encounters
have erroneously stated that if I just cooperated in the violation of
my rights by armed federal agents who claim to be protecting me, I'd be
on my way in a matter of seconds instead of receiving extra special
'protection' for a prolonged period of time.
One example of such criticism that's fit for print appears below:
miles north is nothing. A human can walk 20 miles or more in a day.
Most don't want to. That's why they get in cars and DRIVE. The
checkpoint is there to look for the 20 illegals jammed into the back of
the vehicle. Ok, I get your point about having to answer questions
about your citizenship as a free American. You and I both know if you
had said I am a US citizen you would have been throuh the checkpoint in
a few seconds...
commenter makes several erroneous assumptions regarding the nature of
these checkpoints. Specifically, he assumes they're limited in scope to
checking immigration status.
Ignoring the fact that it's never
'reasonable' to seize individuals inside the country absent reasonable
suspicion to begin with, the fact of the matter is Homeland Security agents routinely use immigration checkpoints as a pretext to conduct far more intrusive dragnet operations. A few of the other uses include an emphasis on illegal narcotics to prop up the failed war on some drugs as well as the general search for felons, weapons, and terrorists.
Case in point is a copy of a complaint, reprinted below, to Customs & Border Protection
regarding the treatment two Americans recently received at the hands of
armed federal thugs at just such an internal Homeland Security
checkpoint. The incident took place on Monday September 27, 2008 East
of Jamul, California along State Highway 94:
that the individuals seized, detained and searched cooperated with the
initial stop by positively identifying themselves as U.S. citizens, one
would think the seizure would have ended shortly thereafter. Instead,
DHS agents used the opportunity as an excuse to illegally expand the
scope of the seizure to search for drugs and other contraband in
violation of several SCOTUS rulings. One such ruling was City of Indianapolis v. Edmond where, as here, drug dogs were used to sniff vehicles absent suspicion of wrongdoing.
text of the complaint which was forwarded to me by the author appears
below. Further commentary regarding the situation can be found
following the account:
The US Border Patrol, in my opinion, are Un-American
agents of an emerging Police State who pull over and harass, not just
Mexicans, but also native born US Citizens at your Totalitarian-style
I should know as I was pulled over and illegally
searched by your Border Patrol thugs on Saturday (9/27/08), at your
checkpoint on San Diego freeway 94 east of Jamul.
What I experienced is that San Diego assigned Border
Patrol Officers Villalobos, Ward, Kennedy, and a short blonde female
officer are illegally (in my opinion), popping open people's car trunks
on freeway 94 by scaring and bullying people into giving "Consent" to
search the vehicles. These Officers gave me and other Motorists an
offer we could not refuse at their checkpoint stop. Either give
"consent" for them to search our cars and trunks or else we are pulled
over to the side of the freeway where we have to sit on a bench and be
stared at and humiliated in front of all of the other motorists passing
by while your Agents verbally work us over.
In my case, as I approached your booth, I innocently
gave the first officer who was manning the actual booth, my wife and my
passports, cooperated with him more than he deserved by telling him I
had been in Mexico that day buying floor tile; however, instead of then
waving me on my way as I had established citizenship with the best of
all documentation, a passport, he then asked me to "give consent" to
him to search my trunk! I went "huh!!" and then the full impact of the
stop hit me fast!
I quickly shot back at him that I already went through
Immigration at Tecate and that I was not going to open anything for
him. He repeated his question a few more times and then directed me to
pull over to the side of the road; whereupon three other officers
descended on my car, ordering us out of the car and to step away from
the car and to sit on a bench. The other three officers each asked me
to give consent to search my trunk and I repeatedly told them no, that
I am a paid up member of the ACLU and that I am refusing to give
consent to search my trunk voluntarily as a matter of principle.
Subsequently, the lead officer said that either I gave
consent or he would bring out his "dogs' to smell my car, and I told
him that he still did not have consent to open my trunk. By this point
the officer's demeanor showed that he appeared "hellbent" on getting
into my trunk one way or another.
Officers Ward, Kennedy and Villalobos then brought out
their Phony Scam "Sniffing Dogs" who ran around my car and then barked
& sort of leapt up a few times while running around the car;
whereupon the lead officer then declared that he now had the legal
right to forcibly open my trunk, and demanded that I give him my car
key, and so I involuntarily complied.
The officer then searched my car as well as my trunk
and undercarriage for about 10 minutes and of course found nothing of
interest, as I all I had in my trunk was a spare tire and a box of
I don't know if the Border Patrol either got ripped
off by whomever sold you the dog, or if the whole dog-sniffing thing is
an actual scam where the dog barks at every car so the Border Patrol
can pretend they have probable cause to search in every case, or
lastly, and more likely, that the dog did not "signal" anything at all
by his "bark", and the officer was probably lying.
In my case these agents also took my Passport, (which
I had on me), and my California Drivers License and went inside and
made photocopies of all of it to keep for their files. The officer in
charge even sent the blond female officer back inside with loud orders
to copy all of the pages in my Passport. (Was this to somehow scare or
intimidate me?) They then returned our IDs and Passports and gave me my
keys back and told us nonchalantly that we could now leave.
During the 20 to 30 minutes of our Detention I argued
with the lead agent, I think he was Officer Ward, over what he was
doing and we bantered back and forth about the 4th Amendment on Search
and Seizure law, with him claiming that he took 7 classes in Criminal
Law in College. Apparently he must have been forgotten to take a class
in Civil Liberties and Constitutional Law.
Also, In the midst of this My wife then began taking
pictures of the four Agents while we were sitting on the Bench and it
totally freaked them out, with them running over yelling to stop taking
I found out later by searching the Internet that
Citizens do not have to give ID to you and that I do not actually have
to even talk to you, so I apparently went way overboard in giving the
Border Patrol my passport and drivers license and chatting with them
about where I had been and where I was going. From now on it will be
your problem to figure out my nationality as I am only going to say,
"Am I being Detained" and "Am I free to go", and I suggest all
motorists stand up for freedom and do the same and not even roll down
the window when stopped by your agents.
I demand that you conduct a full investigation of the details
surrounding my stop at your checkpoint on September 27, 2008 and that
you discipline the Officers involved. I also demand that you return to
me any copies of my identification documents that were made by those
I have already contacted the ACLU on your Civil Rights
Violations. I plan to widely expose your UnAmerican tactics on the
internet and I also plan to organize an educational campaign to inform
people that they do not have to give consent for their cars to be
searched or for their trunks to be opened and that the Border Patrol
internal Checkpoints are an anathema to a free society.
The Border Patrol needs to get back to the Borders, where you belong, and stop ransacking American Citizens' cars!
What has become obvious to me in discussions
with various Homeland Security agents over the past eight months is
that most presume they have the same authority at internal checkpoints
that they have at the actual border. Namely, they presume the authority
to detain whomever they please for further scrutiny based upon mere
suspicion or no suspicion at all. That individuals can be diverted to
secondary inspection, forced out of their vehicle, patted down &
detained indefinitely while agents use drug sniffing dogs to try &
establish probable cause to search or verbal intimidation to coerce
consent for a search.
In other words, DHS agents presume the
United States of America has devolved into a country little different
from most third world dictatorships. A place where individuals can be
arbitrarily plucked off public streets and indefinitely detained for
the convenience and amusement of armed thugs with shiny badges but
little in the way of accountability.
Such an interpretation of
the legitimate powers of Homeland Security agents would be laughable if
not for the serious nature of the violations being perpetrated against
In a previous article, I discussed how such an expansive interpretation of unaccountable authority wasn't supported by Customs & Border Protection's own field manual.
Below, I begin delving into why this interpretation is similarly not
supported by U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence on the subject. For
simplicity's sake however, all one really needs to do is read and
understand the 4th Amendment to know why such internal checkpoint operations represent a fundamental violation of the founding principles of our country.
The Border Patrol routinely points to United States v. Martinez-Fuerte
as the court case which first created the loophole allowing them to
stop & seize individuals at suspicionless internal checkpoints.
What the Border Patrol fails to acknowledge however is that the case
dealt solely with permanent immigration checkpoints located near nexus
points for border traffic - not temporary or tactical checkpoints such
as the one located on SR86 in Southern Arizona:
|"...Our holding today, approving routine stops for brief questioning is confined to permanent checkpoints. We
understand, of course, that neither longstanding congressional
authorization nor widely prevailing practice justifies a constitutional
- U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte
court threw in the last sentence from the above quote based upon
un-Constitutional activity the Border Patrol had engaged in for years
prior to Martinez-Fuerte. Specifically the Border Patrol routinely
searched vehicles at checkpoints absent reasonable suspicion and used
roving patrols to similarly seize, interrogate & search individuals
away from the border. Martinez-Fuerte was the last of four rulings in
the 1970's regarding Border Patrol authority. In the first three, the
court struck down several illegal Border Patrol practices. See: ALMEIDA-SANCHEZ v. US (1973)
- SCOTUS struck down the longstanding practice of using roving patrol
stops as an opportunity to search vehicles absent consent or probable
US v. BRIGNONI-PONCE (1975)
- SCOTUS struck down the longstanding practice of using roving patrols to stop vehicles absent reasonable suspicion.
US v. ORTIZ (1975)
- SCOTUS struck the longstanding practice of searching vehicles at checkpoints absent consent or probable cause.
back to Martinez-Fuerte, let's assume for the sake of argument that the
ruling was expansive and included 'temporary' or 'tactical' checkpoints
as well as permanent ones. What exactly can the Border Patrol do during
such a suspicionless checkpoint stop:
"In summary, we hold that stops for brief questioning routinely conducted at permanent checkpoints are consistent with the Fourth Amendment and need not be authorized by warrant."
- U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte
also that questioning must be related to immigration status and answers
cannot be compelled during an investigatory stop. Additionally:
have held that checkpoint searches are constitutional only if justified
by consent or probable cause to search....And our holding today is
limited to the type of stops described in this opinion. -[A]ny further detention...must be based on consent or probable cause.'"
other words, agents can briefly stop individuals at permanent
checkpoints for the sole purpose of asking immigration questions. Any
further detention must be based on consent or probable cause as opposed to detaining until consent or probable cause can be coerced as was the case above.
enough, agents also point to Martinez-Fuerte as the case that allegedly
authorized them to refer individuals to secondary inspection, force
them out of their vehicles and indefinitely detain them while agents
work them over for consent to search - all based on mere or no
For those who bother to read the case however,
it's obvious SCOTUS only authorized secondary referrals without
probable cause or consent in situations where traffic is too heavy to
ask everyone about their immigration status at the primary stop
SCOTUS never upheld secondary diversions as a
coercive tool to be used to gain compliance after the initial
immigration questions have been asked at primary - absent probable
cause or consent that is:
"Referrals are made for the sole purpose
of conducting a routine & limited inquiry into residence status
that cannot feasibly be made of every motorist where the traffic is
heavy. The objective intrusion of the stop & inquiry thus remains
- U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte
Further, SCOTUS stated:
selective referrals - rather than questioning the occupants of every
car - tend to advance some 4th Amendment interests by minimizing the
intrusion on the general motoring public"
- U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte
At the checkpoints described in this article,
everyone is stopped & questioned at primary - a different set of
circumstances than existed in Martinez-Fuerte where no one was
questioned at primary. As such, the secondary referrals being made are
far more intrusive in their scope then those considered by the Supreme
Court. They represent an extended detention which the court ruled must
be based on consent or probable cause.
In essence, the Border
Patrol is chomping at the bit for a second bite of the apple. Secondary
referrals were ruled reasonable in Martinez-Fuerte because it was the
only place where limited citizenship inquiries were being made. Now
Border Patrol agents claim they can ask the questions at primary and
still refer individuals to secondary for indefinite detention absent
consent or probable cause despite clear guidance from the Supreme Court
to the contrary:
further detention...must be based on consent or probable cause....None
of the defendants in these cases argues that the stopping officers
exceeded these limitations. Consequently, we affirm the judgment of the
Court of Appeals...."
- U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte
this ruling & the complaint appearing above, there's little
question that armed federal agents routinely ignore lawful limitations
on their authority while conducting un-American suspicionless fishing
expeditions against domestic traffic along public highways inside the
The Supreme Court gave the Border Patrol an inch in
Martinez-Fuerte after ruling against them on three separate occasions
in the 1970's. Not to be deterred however, 32 years later the Border
Patrol has taken that inch and stretched it well over a mile and well
past its breaking point.
Welcome to Checkpoint USA.