Welcome to the Border Region Where the Border Patrol Has Implemented Its Own Southwest ‘Stop and Frisk’ Policy

A woman is driving home at 9:30 p.m. with her four-year-old daughter. She pulls into a rest stop. A vehicle appears behind her, with headlights so bright she can’t see. Nervous, she drives away. The other vehicle follows, tailgating her at 60 mph. She switches lanes. The vehicle does too. After several miles, emergency lights come on.

At the roadside, a Border Patrol agent with a hand on his gun approaches. Another agent scans the woman’s car with a flashlight, illuminating her daughter’s face. They’re about 75 miles away from the border in Arizona. “You seem nervous,” one agent says. “Only criminals and people trying to hide things get nervous.” The agent interrogates her, searches personal belongings, and finally releases the car without explanation. Out of fear, the woman resolves to avoid driving at night. Her daughter has recurring nightmares.

Welcome to life in the border region, where Border Patrol’s de facto policy of “stop and frisk” is familiar to local residents and yet concealed from public view. A new ACLU of Arizona report — based on government records obtained through Freedom of Information Act litigation — sheds light on Border Patrol’s vast “interior enforcement” operations, which take place, without meaningful oversight, far from any border

Border Patrol’s own records undermine the agency’s claims that these operations are “safe, efficient, and cost-effective.” Documents contain multiple accounts of Border Patrol agents stopping and searching motorists without justification; threatening residents with assault rifles, Tasers, and knives; destroying and confiscating personal property; interfering with efforts to video-record agents; and using dozens of false alerts by CBP dogs to search and detain innocent people.  

These are not just a few “bad apples.” The records show Border Patrol systematically disregarding the law with impunity. One supervisor instructed agents to “stop any vehicle on the US/Mexico border road” based on the “mere presence of the vehicle.”  The supervisor allegedly “didn’t care if it was the Chief of the Border Patrol and the agent conducted a high risk traffic stop removing the Chief . .  . at gun point.” 

There is no indication that the supervisor was reprimanded. 

“You seem nervous,” one agent says. “Only criminals and people trying to hide things get nervous.” 

None of these incidents resulted in any significant discipline. This is consistent with past reports on CBP’s failure to investigate, much less punish, agents who violate border residents’ rights. The ACLU has documented many similar complaints about Border Patrol’s interior checkpoints and roving patrols in recent years, and those complaints were not properly investigated either. Oversight is so lax that Border Patrol doesn’t even document any stops that don’t result in an arrest, even if the stop leads to lengthy detention or property damage — a practice clearly out of line with accepted standards.   

Yet for all of the harms caused by Border Patrol’s interior operations, they result in relatively few apprehensions of unauthorized border-crossers. For example, Tucson Sector interior-checkpoint apprehensions in 2013 accounted for only 0.67 percent of the sector’s total apprehensions. Yuma Sector checkpoint arrests of U.S. citizens exceeded those of non-citizens by a factor of nearly eight.  |

Despite the Supreme Court’s prohibition on general “crime control” checkpoints, the agency’s records bear out that Border Patrol checkpoints are more directed at drug busts than immigration enforcement. Indeed, it was previously revealed that roughly 80 percent of recorded Border Patrol drug arrests were of U.S. citizens. Despite CBP Commissioner Kerlikowske’s promise a year ago to review all checkpoints by expanding data analysis of their efficacy, no statistics have been released or changes announced.

In that same interview, the commissioner said: “You can’t separate transparency from accountability.” Yet the fact that the ACLU had to file a lawsuit in order to obtain these public records is telling. CBP’s own records show that at a time of growing national attention to police accountability, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency has yet to reform its culture based on best practices like transparent data collection, a ban on racial profiling, or discipline for agents who violate civil rights.

Border residents are rightly impatient for change at CBP: Whether CBP takes this report seriously will be a good gauge of the agency’s true intentions.  

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Anonymous

Enjoy the fascism you have chosen for yourself Arizona.

Michael Melton

perhaps a site should be made where people can upload in real time the interactions with these thugs. I get put into secondary almost every time and never been charged with any crime. I just fit the profile.

Chuck Longstreth

What this says to me: Is that our U.S.Constitution is a farce and of no real effect.
And we thought that the USSR was bad ----- humph.

Kat Hostetler

Let State of Arizona know that my family will not spend one damn dime in Arizona until these hateful pricks get the hell out of Dodge. Barbaric bullies. No place for them in a democratic society.

Anonymous

We were stopped by the Border Patrol twice while traveling from Tuscan to Kitts Peak, Arizona and back. The officers were polite, although grim and a bit intimidating, asked a few questions and let us pass. Traveling from New York state into Canada we were detained for several hours, had our passports (American) held, we were patted down, our car searched (even dirty laundry) and treated as if we were criminals. It isn't the where it is the mental attitude. People should be able to move freely around the world.

Anonymous

If more people knew their rights these things could have a different outcome. Albeit "a living being" has to defend those rights.
First lock your doors and roll your window down a few inches only.
Try to have more than one type of video recorder in your car and have them on.
Do not answer any of their questions and ask, "why you are being pulled over?" (they have to have a reason to pull you over) if they do not have a valid reason, state "Then I am free to leave?" if they say "no" then Ask "Am I being detained? They can not detain you without cause.If they say "yes" they must have a reason. if there is not a reason then say, I am free to leave, and repeat as many times needed. Above all do not engage in any conversation. (you do not have to say anything) Once you talk, you give up your right to remain silent.
Our constitutional rights are still there unfortunately we must enforce them. The police are sneaky and use trickery to coerce us into giving them up.
Oh one more thing, well two.
1. it is not "all" of them and
2. they do not like it when "a living being" knows their rights
so be ready to stick to your guns and
DO NOT LET THEM SEARCH YOU, YOUR BELONGINGS OR YOUR VEHICLE WITHOUT DUE CAUSE. once again know your rights they do not have that right.....

Anonymous

If there is no real work for the patrol, maybe they can be reassigned to check cargo ships or something useful.

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