I first wrote about the driver appearing in the video above in August of last year. See:
At that time, the driver was being routinely harassed by Border Patrol agents at a suspicionless Homeland Security checkpoint along I-19 in Southern Arizona. On at least one occasion, Arizona DPS officer M. Anguiano assisted with the harassment by knowingly issuing a false citation to the driver for not wearing a seatbelt while he was being seized by federal agents in the secondary inspection area (see article referenced above for more details).
Growing weary of the ongoing harassment, the driver began exercising his right to keep and bear cameras several months ago (something I strongly recommend for all travelers, regardless of your chosen mode of travel).
The results of a recorded encounter in December can be seen in the video above and a transcript of the incident follows:
Checkpoint Incident Video Transcript:
BP Agent 1: How’s it going?
Driver: U.S. Citizen
BP Agent 1: Ok, this your car?
Driver: Yes sir
BP Agent 1: Do you mind if I take a look in your trunk?
Driver: I do mind
BP Agent 1: You do mind?
Driver: Yes sir
BP Agent 1: Can I have you pull into secondary?
Driver: What’s your name?
BP Agent 1: My name’s Eric Moorhead
Driver: Is there any reason to believe I’ve broken immigration law or why, why do you want to check…
BP Agent 1: No, I was just wondering if you would mind…
Driver: No but why, what’s the reason you want to check my trunk?
BP Agent 1: Just, your car is dirty…
Driver: Just because my car is dirty?
BP Agent 1: No, it’s not just because your car is dirty
BP Agent 1: “Can I have you pull into secondary. You can ask your questions over there sir.
Driver: Is that the best you’re going to give me?
BP Agent 1: Can I have you pull into secondary
BP Agent 1: Yes sir
(Driver pulls into secondary inspection)
BP Agent 2: How’s it going?
BP Agent 2: USC?
Driver: Yes sir
BP Agent 2: Don’t take my picture man
Driver: No ahhh, just for my protection
BP Agent 2: Put that down, put that down
Driver: No, I don’t have to
BP Agent 2: Put that down dude
Driver: I don’t have to
BP Agent 2: What’s wrong with you?
Driver: What do you mean what’s wrong with me? Do you have a…
BP Agent 2: Why you take my picture?
Driver: Do you have a court order to take my camera or…
BP Agent 2: No no no, I’m not taking your camera…
Driver: No, ok. We can continue.
BP Agent 2: We can continue?
Driver: Yeah. Go ahead
BP Agent 2: Ok. Do you have anything in the trunk?
Driver: No sir
BP Agent 2: Do you mind if I look?
Driver: I do mind
CBP Officer: Is he recording?
BP Agent 2: Ok, ahhh…. yeah he’s recording
CBP Officer: How come?
Driver: I always I always record
BP Agent 2: You always record?. Ok, standby
(Agents huddle together a little ways off. One comment can be heard)
BP Agent 3: Do we have anything else on him?
(BP Agent 2 walks back towards the vehicle)
BP Agent 2: All right
As the video and transcript make perfectly clear, the driver was courteous and answered all immigration-related questions directed to him. Nonetheless, the federal Homeland Security agent attempted to gain access to the interior of the vehicle for a more intrusive search in the absence of reasonable suspicion or probable cause. When the driver politely exercised his right to refuse to consent to a search, the agent diverted the driver to secondary inspection anyway. In so doing, the agent illegally extended the length of the detention and its scope.
While some folks will claim the Border Patrol has the authority to divert vehicles to secondary inspection for more intensive scrutiny based upon little or no suspicion, this is clearly false as the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated. Rather, the court has created a 4th Amendment loophole by allowing brief stops at permanent internal immigration checkpoints setup near nexus points for border traffic for the sole purpose of brief immigration queries. If the traffic is too heavy to ask everyone at the primary stop location their immigration status, vehicles can be selectively diverted to secondary inspection where the question can be asked there.
If however the question is asked at primary, a diversion to secondary represents an extended detention that must be based on consent or probable cause:
The defendants arrested at the San Clemente checkpoint suggest that its operation involves a significant extra element of intrusiveness in that only a small percentage of cars are referred to the secondary inspection area, thereby “stigmatizing” those diverted and reducing the assurances provided by equal treatment of all motorists. We think defendants overstate the consequences. Referrals are made for the sole purpose of conducting a routine and limited inquiry into residence status that cannot feasibly be made of every motorist where the traffic is heavy. – U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte
“…We have held that checkpoint searches are constitutional only if justified by consent or probable cause to search….And our holding today is limited to the type of stops described in this opinion. -‘[A]ny further detention…must be based on consent or probable cause.‘ (U.S. v Brignoni-Ponce)” – U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte
Since 2008 when I first began documenting my experiences at internal homeland security checkpoints, I’ve lost count of the number of people who have erroneously claimed they’re no big deal because all you have to do is answer one citizenship question and you’ll be allowed to go on your way. If being seized absent suspicion by armed federal agents inside the country so they can interrogate you regarding your citizenship wasn’t bad enough, what these people don’t realize (or choose to ignore) is that despite SCOTUS guidance to the contrary, Homeland Security agents routinely use these limited scope immigration checkpoints as a pretext to conduct far more invasive and comprehensive enforcement operations.
Indeed, the Border Patrol has stated publicly on numerous occasions that the agency uses these checkpoints as a pretext to look for felons, weapons, drugs, terrorists and aliens. To illustrate this example of cognitive dissonance within the authoritarian-leaning class, I’ve included several recent quotes from my YouTube channel below:
“You need to grow up there just trying to protect our country and all you have to do is answer the question and thats it and they let you go. You wasted 9.57 minutes for no reason.” – kamal187
“They have reasonable suspicion as you are not answering their question, so they have the right to detain you. I think it is crazy to go around causing trouble like this and filming it all, for no real reason. If you just answered the question they would have let you go.” – leojseivad
“Your such a Jackass… all you have to say is yes i’m a US Citizen and they’ll let you go.. what your doing it causeing problems! eventually were going to pull you out of your truck and place you under arrest and hold you untill a full background check is ran from when your a lil child till present.. why is it that ppl like you dont understand were trying to keep the illegals our of the country to make it a better place for us to live?” – ksuperman69
“You have nothing f—–g better to do in your life so you go through the damn check points and ask them “Am I being detained?????” and make a ass of yourself. Damn answer the damn question you are a citizen just say yes and he will let you go but noo you just want to be a ass about everything.” – andyroo89
The video at the beginning of this article clearly shows these people don’t know what their talking about. The driver did indeed answer all the questions posed to him, yet the agent failed to let him go. Instead, he escalated the encounter by extending the detention when the driver asserted his right not to be searched absent consent or probable cause. When queried as to the reason why he wanted to search, the agent merely indicated the car was dirty. Ignoring the fact for now that having a dirty car is not a crime or an indication of a crime (especially in Southern Arizona), I’m quite sure the U.S. Supreme Court has never upheld ‘dirty car’ checkpoints.
Lest readers presume this is a rare incident brought about by rogue agents, I point you to this article and the ACLU video appearing below:
The incidents highlighted in this article are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s quite common to see dual-purpose K-9 units being used by DHS agents at these checkpoints to sniff vehicles at pre-primary, primary, and secondary inspection areas absent suspicion. It’s also well known that the Border Patrol works closely with the DEA to prop up the failed war on some drugs by working around the Supreme Court prohibition against drug checkpoints in City of Indianapolis v Edmond.
In closing, I want to thank the driver in the video above for asserting his rights along with videotaping the encounter. Until a critical mass of people start exercising their rights in a similar manner while demanding an end to these ineffective, unreasonable and un-American checkpoints, expect them to continue to proliferate around the country while their scope expands.