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Everyday Protests

This video was featured in a piece on KPBS yesterday, “What Happens if You Don’t Cooperate at Border Checkpoints?

The answer is… nothing. Without probable cause Border Patrol has no right to detain you.

At first I watched this video and was annoyed. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. But as it went on I think I got the point. It’s a form of protest against a violation of our rights as citizens. 

Wait, What’s Going On?

For those who don’t live near our southern border with Mexico this might not make sense. As is shown in the video, there are lots of places in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas where highways have immigration checkpoints at non-border crossings. In other words, you could be driving along 50 miles north of the border, as is the case on I-5 between San Diego and Los Angeles, where Border Patrol stops traffic to ask you “Are you a U.S. citizen?

Only you haven’t crossed a border. You haven’t even necessarily crossed a state line. You’re just stopped by a federal agent and questioned. There are several of these checkpoints in our area. Some are on major highways. Most are on small county highways in rural areas.

Pure and simple, it’s an attempt to establish probable cause so that they can further search your vehicle. As soon as that search starts they can run your license plate, check your drivers license for warrants, give you a ticket for a vehicle violation, search your car for anything that might be illegal, and detain you.

It’s not really a border check. As I understand the practice, it’s really meant to stop the movement of illegal stuff. 

There is an upside to this practice. No doubt they catch people trafficking drugs, illegal merchandise, and… humans. I’m sure they catch a lot of drunk drivers and parole violations and pick up folks who have warrants.

The downside? Geez, I dunno… it violates the basic tenants of the Constitution? Unrestricted movement of citizens, free flow of commerce between states, illegal search & seizure, protections against self-incrimination… on and on. Article 1, sections 9 & 10 of the Constitution, the 4th Amendment and more cover these things specifically.

Stopping people just to see if they can establish probable cause is sketchy. It’s the type of everyday injustice that especially targets the most susceptible of our society.

The courts have ruled that these constitutional violations are allowed because they are brief and the upside outweighs the downside.

So, as anti-social as I think this guy’s protest is, I get it. It’s an everyday, non-violent protest that makes a point.

What do you think? Are there types of everyday protest which can make a lick of difference? 

9 Responses to Everyday Protests

  1. Richard Matson-Daley March 8, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    You know the problem with this? He can do it because he is white, he is probably a citizen, and he has an American accent.

    For those of us who are not at least two of these things, it feels like we would never get away with it, and as far as I understand the Arizona law, in the absence of proof of legal presence in the country, a non-U.S. citizen must be detained (with built in penalties for police departments if they aren’t following the law).

    I guess my bottom line is that for people who are immigrants, certain ethnic minorities, and who have certain accents, “nothing” is not what’s going to happen, and that everyday protests are ok, but everyday advocacy and everyday alliance will help others who do not have the power to protest.

    • Carl Fuglein March 8, 2013 at 11:28 am #

      But you have to remember that the US Government has been releasing all those illegal immigrants

  2. Carl Fuglein March 8, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    I think that this is similar government harrasment as TSA. TSA immediately suspects you as a terrorist, even to the point of taking off your shoes. I believe that TSA checkpoints are an invasion of privacy and illegal search and seizure, but I put up with it because I don’t want to fight it. I’m familiar with that checkpoint on I-5, been through it many times. It’s just easier to say you’re an American citizen and go. I do, however, admire these guys for making a point. The Border Patrol ought to recognize a protest sooner than they did in this video and just let the people go on. And I imagine it’s very frustrating for them, knowing that even if they DO find an illegal immigrant, Obama is just going to let them go anyway. What a country. #angryandconfused

  3. Adam McLane March 8, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    I think Richard Matson-Daley brings up an interesting point for me, as a white dude. The stops do feel strange to me, while I’m not personally harassed by the question, some of them do stop traffic for no reason and are an annoyance.

    But perhaps I can use my “status” in society, a status that allows me to protest without worry of it escalating, to help bring out the point for others who don’t have that ability. And a “status” that makes me crazy uncomfortable and a bit agitated even exists.

    It reminds me of the stink we made about the TSA’s “back scatter” machine. For months I refused to go through the machine, making TSA do a physical search, as a form of protest because it was obtusely invasive to scan people that way. And the result? Pressure built and the TSA stopped using that type of machine.

    Something to think about.

  4. Brandon Pachey March 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    I’ve been in South Texas recently and saw the checkpoints, even had to drive thru one…..I get that its a violation of rights and whatnot, but Id rather show my drivers liscence at the checkpoint, or in my other ID and get thru. Human Trafficking and modern day slavery are bigger than most Americans want to realize. Ignoring it wont make it get better. Our culture wont complain until they are directly affected. Maybe instead of making a You Tube video, people should be promoting how to solve the problem.

    Call me old fasioned, but this country wasnt built on people you tubing their grievances….it was built on hard work.

    And no I didnt watch the video, but at the risk of taking a stand on an issue, I see both sides. Equip people, theres enough people that want to only complain about the issue.

    • Brandon Pachey March 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      I also think its funny that he 1. Has a hidden camera. 2. Is being rude to the authorties. 3. Is wasting taxpayer money.

      So yea, I caved and watched the video.

      • Adam McLane March 8, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

        1. The camera wasn’t too hidden, he often held it up to get a better shot. 2. While not overly polite he didn’t call anyone names or get irate. If refusing to answer a question makes you rude… than I guess he was rude. 3. How was he wasting tax payer money?

        He clearly didn’t break any laws. But he did document a couple of laws being broken by law enforcement…

        It’s worth remembering that few things are more American than a good protest. Don’t you think YouTube would have been used during the 1700s? What about in the 1960s civil rights movement?

        Major forms of protest were in the form of pamphlets… if it weren’t for those “going viral” we’d still belong to England. Just offering a little pushback.

      • The Church State Guy March 8, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

        This country was absolutely built on grievances. We are a country of protesters, political activists, union organizers, civil protesters. We wouldn’t have independence if we didn’t protest. We are here in the first place out of protest for freedom of conscious. Beyond that, we wouldn’t have child labor laws, votes for all citizens (blacks and women included!), safe food laws, or many other things we take for granted now if it weren’t for folks willing to leave work early and make their grievances public. I think we need more of this kind of “old fashioned” American advocacy.

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