This piece was originally published in The Hill.

Where are you going? Why are you going there? When did you purchase your vehicle? Can I search your car? Do you have a body in the trunk?

These are some of the questions agents ask me when I cross through a Border Patrol checkpoint. Before I moved to Alamogordo, New Mexico, to teach, I had no idea such military-style checkpoints existed within the United States. To be clear, I’m not talking about something you encounter at the U.S.-Mexican border; these checkpoints are in an American town. Border Patrol operates checkpoints located upwards of 100 miles into the U.S. This “100-mile zone,” where roughly 200 million people in the U.S. live, sometimes feels like occupied territory.

I never faced anything like this in Minnesota, where I’m from. I cannot imagine that people living back home or in Washington, D.C., or Chicago — both located within the 100-mile zone — would stand for a federal agency blocking every route out of their city and forcing them to answer invasive questions from aggressive agents.

Border residents here on our southwest border, however, face routine interrogations at checkpoints as we go about our daily lives.

My recent experience at a checkpoint located between Las Cruces and Alamogordo, New Mexico, is emblematic of the disrespectful treatment we are forced to endure. After dutifully verifying my U.S. citizenship, the Border Patrol agent asked how I was related to the passenger in my car. When I refused to answer that question and any other unrelated to my citizenship, as I have every right to do, he bristled and pressed her for more details. When he was finally finished, he said snidely, “Have fun with your rights.” A reference, perhaps, to his infringement on our right, as U.S. citizens, to travel freely within our country.

This “100-mile zone,” where roughly 200 million people in the U.S. live, sometimes feels like occupied territory.

These stops are invasive and anxiety producing for me, a white person. But the stakes are far higher for Latinos. When I go through, it’s an inconvenience. When my Latina roommate commutes through a checkpoint, she’s put on trial. And she isn’t alone. The ACLU uncovered 6000 pages of complaints alleging abuses that include verbal abuse, threatening behavior, and racial profiling.

Racial profiling is wrong. If we truly value human dignity and fairness, then allowing a federal agency to stop and frisk people of color in border communities, predominantly Latino/a motorists, is not only unjust but also represents a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Currently, Border Patrol agents don’t have to report any of their stops or searches that don’t result in arrests. We frequently hear accounts from Latinos in border communities of officers singling them out and mistreating them for no apparent reason, but without transparent, publicly accessible data about these occurrences, we’ll never know exactly how widespread the problem is or the scope of the resources needed to eradicate it.

As long as these checkpoints exist, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kerlikowske should implement reforms that mirror President Obama’s recommendations to local police and sheriff departments in an effort to rebuild community trust and transparency: strictly prohibit racial profiling, require Border Patrol agents to file reports that include racial demographics on all stops and searches, and implement a system for publicly reporting the data. Only then will we have the information we need to hold Border Patrol accountable to the same reforms rightfully urged of police departments nationwide.

View comments (60)
Read the Terms of Use

John Gleason

Actually the Border Patrol and other police agencies state, federal, and local lobby for more laws so they cangett more 'job security, highte pay, more equipment and more's pretty insidious. They are not "just" enforcing the laws.
And please remember that the guards in the Nazi death camps were just following orders.


"If you don't like checkpoints, talk to your lawmakers, not Border Patrol. They enforce the laws that your elected politicians make."
That isn't how it works. Laws that violate the Constitution are not valid.
In other words, if you want checkpoints inside out borders, get the Constitution amended.


Agents here can only detain for 'brief questioning of the vehicle's occupants" and "any further detention or search must be based on [the greater showing of] consent or probable cause." Once a driver indicates that he will not answer questions or consent to extend the detention or a search, then the only real option available to the agents are to quickly check for evidence of crime, such as contraband in plain view, and let him go if no evidence of crime is found. Source: 428 U.S. 543 (1976)


I think these border agents can be used bettrer at the border to stop these parasites from entering our country and who get better benefits than our veterans.


Hahaha, like someone with no papers can walk into a gov office and get benefits.

Gene in L.A.

You say "these parasites." Which "parasites" are you talking about: natural born Americans who don't get a job and tell lies to live on welfare, or illegal immigrants who come here and work five to five at a job they can't afford to lose and who pay taxes and obey every scrap of the law to avoid being caught? Which of those "parasites" are you talking about? Your very words give you away. Shut up and let people live in peace.

Robin Friday

If this is the checkpoint I am thinking of in NM, they don't block the highway, but they divert cars off-highway down to one lane. We've been through there many times. (We're a white couple, our American SUV is considered a "luxury model", about five years old now). Don't remember that we've been unduly hassled or asked anything inappropriate, but I've always wondered how this could be happening.


Go back to Minnesota..............What's that? You can't find a job over there with your 30k dollar education? You complain about this, I can just imagine what kind of educator you are.


Better than you.


To the person who wrote this article is a retard, and a baby, if you don't like it get the f out of the country. And try and complain in other countries. You shouldn't be allowed here. And you contradicted yourself by stating racial profiling.


Stay Informed