Homeland Security Chooses Site For Illegal Drug Checkpoint


On July 5th, the Arizona Daily Star reported that CBP, Customs and Border Protection – an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, has chosen a location for an interim permanent roadblock in Southern Arizona (see article below). This roadblock, to be located near kilometer post 50 on Interstate 19 just North of Arivaca, will be the first of its kind to sully Arizona’s highways in the State’s history.

While the agency has been operating temporary roadblocks in the Tucson Sector for several years, Congressman Jim Kolbe successfully blocked attempts to establish permanent roadblocks in Arizona during his tenure in office. Unfortunately, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who replaced Kolbe earlier this year, is failing to live up to her responsibilities to protect the people of Southern Arizona from this corrupt and overzealous federal agency.

Instead, Rep. Giffords appears to be taken in by statements like this from Border Patrol spokespersons:

The Border Patrol is in the business of border security,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve been doing this for 83 years. That’s our job. We’re the experts on this.

Interesting enough, Mr. Fitzpatrick doesn’t qualify his statement by informing us that the Border Patrol has had little effect on the number of illegal aliens in the country over the past thirty years.

Take for instance the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case, United States v. Martinez-Fuerte. In this case, the INS reported there were between 10-12 million illegal aliens present in 1975:

We noted last Term that “[e]stimates of the number of illegal immigrants [already] in the United States vary widely. A conservative estimate in 1972 produced a figure of about one million, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service now suggests there may be as many as 10 or 12 million aliens illegally in the country.” United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 878 (1975)

Strangely enough, the number of aliens reported to be in the country illegally in 1975 is the same number reported by the Border Patrol in 2007, over thirty years later.

As such, it’s rather hard to take Mr. Fitzpatrick’s statement that the Border Patrol is the expert on Border Security seriously. Especially when one considers how little the Border Patrol has to show for its work over the past thirty years. Thirty years in which the number of Border Patrol agents has increased from 1,200 to 12,000 and the agency’s budget has swelled from around 150 million dollars to well over 3 billion. This doesn’t even consider the force multiplying advantage new technology has allowed the Border Patrol to bring to bear. Technology such as remote sensors, night vision cameras, high tech border walls, unmanned drones, etc.

Instead Mr. Fitzpatrick would have us believe that indiscriminantly seizing millions of travelers every year at a permanent roadblock nearly forty miles North of the Mexican border is somehow going to make us more safe.

Or that an internal roadblock setup along a major highway could ever be as efficient at deterring illegal aliens as standing on the border where there’s no guesswork regarding who’s entering the country illegally.

Or that ignoring the 4th amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure will somehow stop the flow of illegal aliens into the country.

Given the obvious problems associated with suspicionless federal roadblocks on Arizona highways, you might ask yourself what purpose such roadblocks are intended to serve. We know the stated purpose is allegedly to detect illegal aliens. We also know that such internal roadblocks aren’t nearly as efficient at detecting illegal aliens as regular border operations. So the question remains – what other purpose will this roadblock serve?

The following quotes from the article below provide us with a clue. The first quote is from Tucson DEA agent Anthony Coulson. That’s right – a Drug Enforcement Agent who is NOT part of Customs and Border Protection:

“Drug traffickers will know we are doing everything we can to deny them this lane through Southern Arizona, so the cost of business will increase because they will have to get more sophisticated” Coulson said.

The article goes on to state:

“The agency and its supporters say a permanent checkpoint, which would have high-tech detection devices similar to a border port, would slow down smuggling in the nation’s busiest corridor for human- and drug-trafficking.”

Why these two quotes are especially disturbing is simple. They indicate the scope of this permanent roadblock wont be limited to detecting illegal immigrants but will also include the active search for illegal narcotics.

Since the Supreme Court explicitly struck down the constitutionality of suspicionless drug-interdiction roadblocks in Indianapolis v. Edmund:

“But if this case were to rest at such a high level of generality, there would be little check on the authorities ability to construct roadblocks for almost any conceivable law enforcement purpose. The checkpoint program is also not justified by the severe and intractable nature of the drug problem.”

And only authorized permanent immigration roadblocks when limited in scope as described in United States v. Martinez-Fuerte:

“The principal protection of Fourth [428 U.S. 543, 567] Amendment rights at checkpoints lies in appropriate limitations on the scope of the stop. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S., at 24-27; United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S., at 881-882. We have held that checkpoint searches are constitutional only if justified by consent or probable cause to search.”

It becomes clear the Border Patrol intends to use this facility for illegal drug-enforcement operations under cover of legally permissible immigration checks.

Of course anyone familiar with Border Patrol operations, wont be overly surprised by the agency’s cavalier disregard for constitutional protections. This newest Homeland Security outrage will be just one more to add to an ever-growing list of abuses by this agency against the American people.

Below, you’ll find the text of the Arizona Daily Star article published on July 5, 2007:

Border Patrol narrows checkpoint-site search
By Brady McCombs
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 07.05.2007

The Border Patrol has homed in on a location just north of Arivaca Junction for the Interstate 19 permanent checkpoint it has long sought.

The agency plans to open an interim facility at kilometer post 50, 31 miles north of the border. The interim checkpoint is expected to cost $1.5 million to $2 million and will be used for three to five years until the agency gets the funding and permits needed for a permanent checkpoint, said John Fitzpatrick, assistant chief in the Tucson Sector.

The interim checkpoint, which would include the construction of a 110-by-120-foot canopy over I-19, could be open in as little as six months, depending on how long the environmental assessment takes, he said.

Officials said they haven’t made a final decision on a location for a permanent facility but said kilometer post 50 is at the top of their list because of its strategic position north of Arivaca Road, Fitzpatrick said. A permanent checkpoint would likely cost at least $14 million and be built east of the interstate to pull traffic off the main thoroughfare.

The Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector had been prohibited from opening permanent checkpoints since 1999 by a congressional mandate championed by since-retired Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz.

Kolbe argued that permanent checkpoints would serve little purpose because smugglers know where they are and can go around them.

The move toward a permanent checkpoint has upset a large contingent of community members in Tubac and Green Valley who have vehemently protested it on the grounds that a permanent checkpoint would be ineffective and detrimental to business and property values.

Members of a community work group formed by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., to study the issue are particularly irked that the agency didn’t wait for their findings, due out within a month.

“When you talk to the Border Patrol, it sounds like their mind is made up,” said Nan Walden, a member of the work group.

Walden and her husband, Richard Walden, own Farmers Investment Co., which operates more than 4,000 acres of pecan orchards and employs 240 workers. “They’ve made their plans, and that’s that.”

“We’re the experts on this”

The agency said it will wait to make a decision about the permanent checkpoint until the group’s findings are released but countered that, from the Border Patrol’s perspective, the work group wasn’t formed to debate permanent checkpoints but rather to get input about ways to make it most effective, Fitzpatrick said.

“The Border Patrol is in the business of border security,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve been doing this for 83 years. That’s our job. We’re the experts on this.”

The agency and its supporters say a permanent checkpoint, which would have high-tech detection devices similar to a border port, would slow down smuggling in the nation’s busiest corridor for human- and drug-trafficking.

Through the first eight months of fiscal year 2007, the Tucson Sector accounts for 49 percent of all marijuana seized and 44 percent of all apprehensions made on the southern border. The Tucson Sector is the only one on the Southwest border without permanent checkpoints.

“We absolutely need checkpoints to bring our level of enforcement up to at least the same level as the other sectors on the southern border,” Fitzpatrick said.

The permanent checkpoint would give law enforcement an essential tool and send a loud message, said Anthony Coulson, Drug Enforcement Administration assistant special agent in charge in Tucson.

“Drug traffickers will know we are doing everything we can to deny them this lane through Southern Arizona, so the cost of business will increase because they will have to get more sophisticated,” Coulson said. “There is going to be a point when they say. ‘It’s not worth it.’ ”

Even with the announcement that the checkpoint will be at kilometer 50, nine miles from Green Valley and Tubac, the staunch opposition remains in one of the state’s fastest-growing areas.

Opposition is vocal

Fundamentally, community members argue that border enforcement should take place at the international line, not 31 miles north.

Logistically, they say the permanent checkpoint will be an inconvenience for them and will deter visitors and potential property owners. They are concerned about an increase in violence among smugglers as drug traffickers travel through outlying areas to get around the checkpoint.

“This community is fit to be tied,” said Carol Cullen, executive director of the Tubac Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve got people who are talking about protesting.”

Gus and Beverly Amado, whose cattle and horse ranch just south of Elephant Head Road east of kilometer 50 has been in the family for five generations, are worried about the large building, lights and semitrailers that would be passing through. They are dreading the inconvenience, too. They would have to go through the checkpoint to get their mail in Amado.

“It changes the valley forever,” said Beverly Amado. “It will never be the same. People in Congress, the Border Patrol, they come and go, but we’re here forever.”

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada questioned the need for the permanent inspection station and said the logic that the Tucson Sector needs one because it’s the only sector without is a simplistic, flawed view.

“Just because Arizona does not have it doesn’t mean Arizona has to have it,” Estrada said. “Maybe we are the smart one; maybe we’re doing the right thing.”

He added: “I think they’ve already conceded defeat by saying we can’t stop you at the border, so we’ll stop you 50 kilometers north.”

Opponents are losing sight of the bigger picture, Coulson said. Drugs that get through Arizona are distributed across the country, he said.

“There is no sense of responsibility for those folks. It’s all about what I want in my backyard.” Coulson said.

Rep. Giffords stops short of fully endorsing permanent checkpoints, but she’s been vocal about the ineffectiveness of temporary checkpoints, which she called “disastrous” in terms of stopping illegal immigration and drugs.

“I’m not going to sit back and not do everything in my power to bring the maximum amount of border security to Southern Arizona,” Giffords said.

When asked whether that included permanent checkpoints, she answered, “I think all options should be on the table.”

Both Giffords and the Border Patrol have promised members of the work group that they’ll await their findings before deciding on a permanent checkpoint.

But, many community members have accepted that they may have lost the battle.

“They’ve already started what they are going to do,” Cullen said. “I don’t think they are being rude. I just think it’s a done deal.”