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Constitutional Distortion

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Has Constitutional Distortion Become Common Practice in the Mexican-American Border region?

The Unites states has implemented permanent Inland Immigration Checkpoints on all major roads leading away from Mexico in the southern states. Are these checkpoints Legal? Can you refuse? What are your rights? Does the law agree with them? These questions are important and mostly left unanswered. The research shows a major dividing line between literal interpretation of the fourth amendment, and the government’s insistence on distorting the constitution, vital to ensureing our national security.

Inland immigration checkpoints provide a vital role in ensuring the safety of the United States. Their existence although a minor inconvenience to many motorists, is crucial in stopping the trafficking of drugs and illegal immigration. The U.S. Border Patrol, a component of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), aims to apprehend persons who illegally enter the United States between official ports of entry, including potential terrorists, aliens, and contraband smugglers, thereby deterring or stopping illegal activity.(DHS 2012). The Supreme Court first approved of law enforcement roadblocks in a case involving the Border Patrol’s practice of stopping traffic on major highways to prevent the trafficking of illegal aliens. (U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte). The Court also first introduced the idea of a balancing test for roadblocks here. The Court found that the federal government had a strong interest in securing the nation’s borders, that the roadblock was an effective way to determine whether vehicles contained illegal immigrants, and that the roadblock was neither excessively intrusive on privacy rights nor disruptive of traffic flows. Today the Border Patrol uses a set of Supreme Court precedents to defend their actions at inland immigration checkpoints.

Is the constitution being distorted in the border region? Inland Immigration checkpoints have become a common existence within 100 miles of the Mexican border. These checkpoints are used to catch “illegal Immigrants” although they are used to catch drug traffickers and other non-immigration related violations. Shan Patel writes that individualized suspicion not needed for fixed road checkpoints, the Supreme Court ruled in (Martinez- Fuerte) that the government’s interest in protecting a 2,000 mile border was great and that the stop of a person’s vehicle was a limited intrusion and lasted a very short time. (Patel, 2007) Despite holding the legality of checkpoints for immigration checkpoints the Supreme Court has continued to require reasonable suspicion (Patel, 2007). The Arizona ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona) has highlighted twelve separate incidents over the past 15 months at six different Inland Arizona Immigration Inspection Checkpoints (Lyall, 2014) The ACLU highlights fears that people who are exercising their right to free and uninhibited travel are being discriminated against by the border patrol. The ACLU also highlights cases where Hispanic American citizens are being especially scrutinized. A Private news corporation (Think Progress.com) published an article highlighting fear among illegal immigrants who have been living in America in the border region. These Illegal Immigrants often have Children who were born in the United States and are legal citizens despite their parent’s illegal status. Many of these families live between a checkpoint and their kids schools, and schools are reporting in some places a 35 percent drop in attendance, because parents are afraid to commute to school to drop off their children. (Lee, 2013) The State of Texas has causes controversy by implementing Operation Linebacker, local law enforcement officers were stopping motorists and after asking for license and registration citizens were being asked if they are American citizens. (Rodriguez, 2008) Local law enforcement has both denied the claims as well as stated that what they are doing is necessary to secure the border region. How did things get to be this way?

The radical views on this topic are as follows. The last 30 years of Supreme Court case precedents relating to road blocks have not helped. The legal wording of when you can and cannot stop cars on the interstate is up to interpretation. The first act restricting immigration started in 1875 contained search and seizure provisions and guidelines. (The act of Mar 3, 1875 ) On August 7, 1946, Immigration officers were first empowered to conduct warrantless searches within reasonable distance (100 Miles) from the border. (act of Aug. 7, 1946 ). Today we find that the laws regarding inland border checkpoints are confusing and clashing within themselves, precedents appear to step on the toes of each other, with immigration enforcement officers applying the laws to fit in their favor rather than in accordance with actual decisions.
Travelers may be so stopped in crossing an international boundary…But those lawfully within the Country…. Have the right to free passage without interruption or search unless there is known to be a competent official authorized to search, (and) probable cause for believing that their vehicles are carrying contraband or illegal merchandise. (Hakes, 1977 )
So where are we today? Well today there are 33 permanent checkpoints operated in the southwest sector states. (Stana, 2005) Today the ACLU has a list of recommendations for what you are allowed to do at these Inland Immigration checkpoints. Refusal to answer any questions at the Border checkpoints does not give probably cause for a secondary search. Videotaping agents is your right even at checkpoints, you do not have to answer questions relating to your status as a citizen. (Lyall, 2014)

Today your experience with an Inland border checkpoint could go in a number of ways. You could simply comply and most likely you will be waved through, you could refuse and the outcome may still be the same. If you refuse you should be prepared for a variety of outcomes, you may be waved through, or you may be asked to pull into a secondary inspection. There is a growing trend of civilians recording their interactions with the border patrol, and then posting the resulting interactions online for others to see. Often these videos are less than ten minutes with most agents giving up or becoming frustrated with the drivers when the driver forces the agent to make a decision to detain the driver or let them go. I think that this kind of civil disobedience highlights the inconsistencies in the border patrols operating procedures and it highlights a much greater issue: The Lack of a Definitive Supreme Court prescient pertaining to mandatory Inland Border checkpoints.

Bibliography act of Aug. 7, 1946 . (n.d.).
Hakes, R. A. (1977 ). Constitutional Law- Fourth Amendment- Immigration Checkppints Stops for Questioning Are reasonable Without Individualized Suspicion . BYU Law Review .
Lee, E. Y.-H. (2013, September 27). Think Progress. org Spate of south texas police checkpoints incite fear among immigrants . Retrieved from Think Progress. org .
Lyall, J. (2014, january 15). RE: Complaint and request for investigation of abuses at U.S. Border Patrol Interior checkpoints in southern Arizona . Arizona : ACLU .
Patel, S. (2007). Per se Reasonable Suspicion: police Authority to stop thoes who flee from road checkpoints. Duke Law Journal, 1621-1651.
Rodriguez, A. J. (2008). Punting on the Values Of Federalism . Columbia Law Review association, INC , 1226-1267.
Stana, M. R. (2005). Avalable Data on Interior Checkpoints Suggest Differences in Sector Performance. . Whashington DC. : Govenrment Accountability office .
The act of Mar 3, 1875 . (n.d.).

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