As a Soldier I Defended Our Rights, Now Who Will Defend Mine?

For a year now, I've been asking how a 75-year-old Vietnam Vet and retired prison guard like me could wind up in the hospital after being brutally mistreated by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.

I live in a quiet retirement community, Kino Springs, just a few miles from the Arizona border with Mexico. Since I moved here about eight years ago, I've been going back and forth across the border to Nogales, Mexico, to get haircuts or dental work, or sometimes just for lunch. Last March 27, I went over to get some welding done. It was on my return trip, around five o'clock in the afternoon, that the nightmare happened.

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When I got to the border crossing where customs officers checked my passport, I was told to pull over into what's called secondary – a parking area where they search vehicles for contraband. The agent there took my keys and in a gruff voice ordered me to get out of my truck, put my hands on the vehicle, and said he was going to search me. I did exactly as he said, then turned and asked him, in a calm and polite voice, whether he needed some kind of probable cause to search me. He answered "No I don't!" Then he grabbed me in an arm lock, slammed a pair of handcuffs down on my wrists hard enough to split the skin, and pushed my wrists up behind my neck so far that my shoulders started to go out of joint. It hurt so badly I started screaming "Please stop, please stop, you're hurting me." I wasn't resisting at all, but he just kept on while I cried out in pain.

Next the officer marched me to a holding cell. There he picked me up by the seat of my pants and slammed my head onto the tile floor. I blacked out for a moment, then I woke up with a head wound that had peeled a chunk of skin off the top of my head. I was still bleeding when an officer handcuffed me to the side of a bench so tightly that I couldn't even stand up. And they kept on questioning me, "Why do you come here so often? What are you doing over there?"

I was scared and in pain. When my chest started hurting, I thought I was having a heart attack. I pleaded with the officers to call an ambulance. They finally said they would, but only if I agreed to pay the hospital bill, which I did. The emergency room doctor was so incensed at what happened to me that he called the Nogales city police. The police officer who came to the hospital dutifully took a report and photos of my injuries but told me he had "no authority" down at the border.

I never thought an innocent person, an American citizen, would be beaten up by law enforcement officers, and for no reason. When I asked the officer at the border what cause he had to search me, I didn't know what the rules were. Since then I've been shocked to learn that some of our constitutional protections don't apply in the same way at the border. CBP officers can search you at a border crossing without any suspicion of wrongdoing and without your consent. And if you live within 25 miles of the border, they can come onto your property without your permission.

I am still angry at the complete lack of response from CBP to the many attempts I made to file a complaint about my mistreatment. I wanted to sue; but without witnesses, I felt I had no chance of winning. I tried under the Freedom of Information Act to get copies of footage from the border station's video cameras, but none of that evidence has ever been given to me, even after Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) wrote on my behalf. Aren't government agencies supposed to be transparent and accountable to the public?

I finally got so frustrated that I made a huge sign describing what happened to me. I mounted it on the back of my truck, and for months I drove back and forth across the border for everyone to see. I felt it was the only way to stand up for my rights and to let the public know about the mistreatment that happens too often at the border.

A year after the incident, my injuries still keep me awake at night. My wrists and hands constantly ache. I get headaches I didn't used to have, and I'm often awakened by nightmares about what happened.

I served 22 years in the army. I fought for my country in Vietnam, got medals for valor, and worked as a prison guard in Washington State. I've always felt that the United States was a fair and democratic country. But today I'm sad to realize that our constitutional rights can't be taken for granted. I'm telling my story because I believe that law enforcement officers who carry out such extreme abuses of power and authority should be held accountable.

Read more about Border Communities Under Siege.

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from Richard, V...

There aren't enough words to describe how angry it makes me to hear this happened to at veteran and not just any veteran but one from the same war I was summoned to by Lottery pick (#12) and expected to go whether or not I wanted to on threat of becoming imprisoned or giving up my entire citizenship status.
We were forgotten by our country once before, treated with hostility on our return and now, in what's supposed to be our "golden years" brutalized and terrorized?
I don't think so; it makes me glad I live in Canada half the time and that I got lucky enough to avoid confrontation with the powers that be; at least most of the time.

I'll do whatever I can to help a fellow comrade. And by the way, welcome home Mr. Kirschen. Welcome home.

Vicki B.

I don't understand it. Someone's going to have to explain to me why there are places on United States property that DON'T recognize the Constitution.
I think it's baloney. You don't just get to make it up as you go along, as if you're thinking "Well this place over HERE will go by the Constitution, but that place over THERE won't - and never mind that BOTH places are on U.S soil.

Anonymous

interesting that he was a prison guard and all of a sudden saw himself on the other side of the power dynamic. karma perhaps?

William Hamilton

As a Soldier I Defended Our Rights, Now Who Will Defend Mine?
I will -in every way that I can and so will my fellow Navy Vets.

Anonymous

I thought I was fighting for the good guys too, when I joined the Army and afterwards went into the US Marshal's service. I found out the hard way that it's all BS when I went to prison for beating a prisoner I never actually put my hands on.

Michael A. Hense

"As a Soldier I Defended Our Rights, Now Who Will Defend Mine?"

i asked the same question when the NY State Supreme Court ordered me to sell my home, PRIOR TO DISSOLUTION OF THE MARRIAGE, WITHOUT DUE PROCESS, WITHOUT SUBSTANTIVE HEARING, UNDER THE GUISE OF A STIPULATION...

i asked the same question on certiorari for Appeal in NY State's highest court... Chief Admin Justice Jonathan Lippman denied the Appeal stating in a signed decision, that he could see "no substantial constitutional question" regarding a claim of deprivation of property under color of law without due process...

i asked the same question, in the district court of the Second Circuit, and it was dismissed under the absurd pretext of violating the Rooker/Feldman doctrine... despite the fact that none of the 5 prongs of the test were satisfied...

i asked the same question in the nations highest federal court under the SCOTUS, and was asked by Justice Hall "so what do you, money"...

like you... an answer is still forthcoming...

Michael A. Hense

from Richard, V...

After watching the video: Still too stunned for words.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same of not being hurt in the war; I have two purple hearts for wounds received in combat. One for tripping an explosive device. The pain from the explosive device is the worst I ever felt, even more intense than when I was hit by enemy fire.

CBP is wildly out of control. I hope everyone who reads this signs the petition because petitions do work if enough people sign them. Public outcry is a quite effective tool for getting something to happen.

Stan H

Ya quite a few of the boarder patrol folks are real assholes. I have had trouble at the Canadian crossing coming back to the US to a point that I don't bother going north anymore. I never have been assaulted like this guy but the harrasement on two occasions were to a point I gave them crap back and don't care if I go to jail.
I also am a vet, and worked for a utility, I have had more background checks than the normal guy due to my work, even have a TWIC card which buy the way boarder patrol doesn't even recognize. So really the way I feel is the fence is already up but not to keep the bad guys out its there to not let me back in to the country I served and was born in.

Anonymous

Welcome to the new america.. Kids born now will never even raise an eyebrow in the future. Its just the way it will always have been.

Anonymous

sorry buddy that your govt. screwed you... but - news flash, you NEVER fought for any of our 'rights' you were a pawn used to enforce the political will of the US govt. by force of arms. Not one iota of pride in that. Perhaps instead of whining like a stuck pig - you ought to warn the younger generation of the despicable treatment you received from the govt. and tell them not to serve the evil masters in DC.

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