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?