Checkpoints USA

Written by Carmen Cornejo

“A man complained of racial profiling after Border Patrol followed him and his family from an I-10 interior checkpoint, about 75 miles from the border, to a highway restaurant. Agents interrogated the man and his family about their legal status, their residence and arrest history before releasing them without explanation.”

“A military veteran complained of racial profiling after a Border Patrol agent accosted the man and frightened his young children at Highway 90 checkpoint. The agent repeatedly asked, (A) re these your children (?)…How do I know these are your kids (?)… Are these your kids (?) Really are these your kids? The agent then frightened the man’s 3-year-old child and woke the man’s 12-year-old daughter to repeatedly ask, Is this your dad? Really, is he your dad?”

These incidents happened at or near the checkpoints that Border Patrol have established up to 100 miles from the Arizona-Mexico border and were collected in a damning report by ACLU of Arizona titled “Record of Abuse: Lawlessness and Impunity in Border Patrol’s Interior Enforcement Operations.

ACLU of Arizona and a group of brave citizens from Arivaca, Arizona called People Helping People are starting to record complaints of abuse and racial profiling by Border Patrol agents in and around checkpoints, after residents of border towns were victims of unwarranted questioning, searches and intimidation by Border Patrol agents.

U.S. laws allow Border Patrol to check immigration status within 100 miles from the border at fixed and tactical checkpoints. In the fiscal year 2014, the last time BP released such information, there were 128 checkpoints nationwide. Today the number of immigration checkpoints in the country is calculated at 178.

In the court case United States v. Martinez-Fuerte (1976), the Supreme Court determined that immigration checkpoints are “permissible only as they involve a brief detention of travelers” during which all that is required of the vehicle’s occupants is “a response to a brief question or two and possibly the production of a document evidencing a right to be in the United States.” Persons and vehicles should not be searched, and referrals to secondary inspection areas should involve “routine and limited inquiry into residence status” only. Local residents are supposed to be “waved through checkpoints without further questioning.” Additionally, SCOTUS ruled in another case that checkpoints are not crime control stations.

But that is not what is happening.

Legal status and checkpoints

If you are undocumented or you are in the process of being protected by DACA, avoid checkpoints. You will be asked if you are a U.S. citizen, and if you are not a citizen, you may be asked to present documentation that you are legally present in the U.S.

If you have DACA, TPS or other form of temporary relief, carry your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with you as proof of your legal presence when traveling close to the northern and southern border. Last year, a woman was tased by Border Patrol agents in the border town of Waddington, NY.

If you are a citizen or have legal presence in the U.S. but have experienced extended interrogation, racial profiling, unjust searches of your personal property, or were threatened in any way, report those instances by filling out an electronic form with ACLU of Arizona.

If you have questions, consult with a trusted immigration lawyer. Here is Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund guide to find a good one.