For those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember a story I posted in March of last year involving a military field grade officer at a Border Patrol checkpoint near Uvalde, TX. That initial report was followed up with another post several months later containing additional video footage and commentary regarding the incident.
In that incident, Border Patrol agents harassed and attempted to intimidate an active duty military officer, with multiple combat deployments, at a suspicionless checkpoint inside the country no where near an international border for over thirty minutes despite having no legitimate reason to believe he had violated any law. The Border Patrol agents appeared largely uninterested in evidence of the officer’s citizenship status despite being offered an active duty military ID, driver’s license and U.S. Passport. Rather, the agents were much more concerned with whether or not the officer rolled his window all the way down then if he was ‘legally’ within the country.
To justify the extended detention, agents lied about the sequence of events at the checkpoint. They also demanded to know where the officer worked and who his commanding officer was – information completely unnecessary to determine immigration status at an immigration checkpoint. Indeed, throughout the videotaped encounter, it was pretty clear the Border Patrol agents (not actually patrolling the border) were using the ‘immigration’ checkpoint as an opportunity to condition the general public to be obedient to arbitrary interference in their right to travel inside the country absent individualized suspicion.
Given that I’ve already blogged about this incident twice, you may be wondering why I’m doing so again. It turns out the Border Patrol agents weren’t content to limit their harassment of the officer to the checkpoint encounter. Rather, he needed to be punished much more broadly for failing to grovel before them while otherwise cooperating with the purported purpose of the suspicionless seizure.
As reported by Veterans Against Police Abuse (VAPA), the Chief Patrol Agent of the Del Rio sector, Robert L. Harris, took time out of his busy schedule saving us from the invading hordes to write a letter of complaint, full of falsehoods, to the officer’s military command. Since it was obvious the officer hadn’t violated any laws during the encounter, the letter was really nothing more than CPA Harris moaning about a military officer exercising the very rights the federal government allegedly sent him overseas to fight for in the first place.
[Robert L. Harris
Chief Patrol Agent
U.S. Border Patrol
Del Rio Sector]
Rather than parsing CPA Harris’s letter myself, I encourage you to checkout VAPA’s open letter response to Chief Harris. Their response is far more detailed and on point then anything I could have done. In the event the response disappears from VAPA’s website however, I’ve replicated it at the bottom of this article.
What’s of special note here is the fact that without video evidence directly contradicting CPA Harris’s account, this would have been the officer’s word against the highest ranking Border Patrol agent in the Del Rio sector. The video evidence also shows just how far a high ranking Border Patrol agent like Harris is willing to go to retaliate against individuals, at their place of employment no less, for doing nothing more than peacefully exercising their rights. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to videocord your entire encounter during such checkpoint seizures.
Another reason is to secure evidence to protect yourself against trumped up charges or to use in a lawsuit for such things as deprivation of rights & quite possibly tortious interference. Although I haven’t seen the filings yet, it’s my understanding that just such a lawsuit has been initiated regarding this encounter. It’s also my understanding the officer in this case has retained the services of Marc Victor, Attorney For Freedom, the same attorney who successfully represented Steven Anderson against false charges at a Border Patrol checkpoint last year along with a pending civil rights lawsuit.
I plan on following these cases closely as they develop & will write about them in greater detail as additional information becomes available. In the meantime, I encourage you to once again checkout VAPA’s open letter response to Chief Harris’s letter of complaint. If someone as high ranking as Chief Harris is willing to stoop so low knowing full well video evidence exists to contradict his assertions, is it any wonder why immigration checkpoints have morphed into general law enforcement dragnet operations that have little resemblance to the “minimally intrusive” checkpoint operations considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976?
A reprint of VAPA’s open letter response to Chief Harris appears below:
Readers may feel free to copy and paste and distribute this content at will
The following open letter is written in response to the Chief Border Patrol Agent of the Del Rio sector. Chief Robert L. Harris shamefully used his position to harass an innocent and upstanding military officer on April 13, 2010, by writing the letter below to the officer’s commander. The letter was sent weeks after Chief Harris’ agents were caught, on multiple video cameras, violating the Constitutional rights of the military officer as he passed through their checkpoint in Uvalde, Texas. The full video footage of the incident shows the military officer motorist was extremely cooperative well beyond what is legally required (even the agent says they appreciated his cooperation at the end of the seizure), and provided excessive documentation to prove his citizenship. The video further shows that the Chief’s agents were wholly uninterested in the military officer’s immigration status, violated both federal law and Border Patrol procedure, lied in order to justify their unlawful actions, and contacted the military officer’s commander to punish him for challenging their illegal actions. The military motorist simply wanted to drive from one American city to another, and he had crossed no borders and had broken no laws. The full footage (showing both interior and rear camera views) of the nearly thirty-five minute episode can be viewed on YouTube and the abbreviated version is embedded below.
Those interested in the actual law regarding Border Patrol checkpoints can reference the left side pane of this page. This includes quotes and links to case law from the Supreme Court and other federal courts over the years. We have also included insightful Border Patrol procedural information from the Border Patrol’s official, Inspector’s Field Manual. Hat tip to immigration attorney, Charles M. Miller, who we owe for his persistence in getting the manual released through FOIA. The Border Patrol’s own procedure is displayed in green text on the side panel. For those seriously interested in this incident, it is recommended the four-part full video be viewed in its entirety before reading further.
Chief Harris was the highest Border Patrol agent in the Del Rio sector which, according to Wiki, includes Abilene, Bracketville, Carrizo Springs, Comstock, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, Rocksprings, San Angelo, and Uvalde. In other words, Chief Harris speaks for the Border Patrol in great measure with his only superiors apparently located in Washington DC. He is a second generation Border Patrol officer, and has given testimony to Congress.
Chief Harris’ letter following the incident shows the Border Patrol was unsatisfied with the harassment they steeped upon the military officer weeks earlier. The letter appears to be further retaliation from the upper echelons of the U.S. Border Patrol for the video being offered to the American people. The VAPA did proudly facilitate the production of the video, as the Veterans Against Police Abuse works for greater transparency in public interactions with armed public servants and this video was created using the technology we recommend. The VAPA and the video are specifically mentioned in Chief Harris’ letter. That has prompted our response. We appreciate that such a high ranking checkpoint officer would mention us, though we think his allegations are way off base. The Chief writes of us:
“Mr. [redacted]’s videos of the event have been edited and uploaded onto the internet into a website called, ‘Veteran’s Against Police Abuse’ [sic], which by implication impugns the integrity of the United States Border Patrol as a whole, and its agents. We believe [redacted]’s conduct is unbecoming of such a high ranking officer in the [military service].”
While we respond to the letter in whole below, we must first respond to this erroneous assertion concerning our organization. The VAPA website does not impugn the integrity of the Border Patrol. Rather, our website seeks to encourage citizens to arm themselves with video technology, in order to provide better accountability and training for the public servants they employ. Chief Harris equates this greater transparency with impugning the integrity of those being filmed. If the integrity of those servants is beyond reproach, as the Chief would appear to believe, then he should welcome the recording of his agents. He should be happy that citizens on the internet can see first hand the display of their professionalism and integrity. If the video shows agents to be unprofessional and dishonest violators of the U.S. Constitution, as this particular video does, the Chief should welcome the accountability and opportunity to correct his sector’s discrepancies. Instead, Chief Harris and his Border Patrol deplore transparency and accountability and seek to ruin the careers of those who attempt to legally provide it. We have to wonder how rotten is the Del Rio Sector barrel, when Border Patrol apples from top to bottom are as dishonest and unprofessional as Chief Harris, Captain R. Perez, and Agent J. Lands.
We will now respond to the Chief’s stunning letter to the driver’s military commander in its entirety.
“This letter is in reference to an encounter with [redacted] at the Uvalde Border Patrol checkpoint on Highway 90. The following is a synopsis of the events as they have been relayed to me. This incident occurred on March 18, 2010 at approximately 12:45 PM.”
We find it interesting that the Chief would take the time to write this three page letter, despite it having no relevance to his professional responsibility, and yet could not be bothered to watch the full footage on YouTube. One would hope a person in the Chief’s position would want to garner all the facts before making serious allegations about a military officer intended to harm career. Of course, those in positions such as the one occupied by Agent Harris are well versed in the political value of plausible deniability.
“[Redacted] approached primary inspection at the Highway 90 Checkpoint. A Uvalde Border Patrol Agent asked him to roll down his window in order to conduct a brief, routine inspection.”
Chief Harris omits an important fact, and then takes liberty with a second here. First, the initial question Agent Lands asks the driver is, “Is this your vehicle, sir?” The driver answers in the affirmative. The agent then asks, “Can you roll down your window? Is that as far as it will go?” The driver answers the question and rolls his window down further. Agent Lands never makes it clear that he is ordering the driver to roll his window down all the way (an order the driver would be well within his rights to disregard). The agent then asks again, “You said this is your vehicle?” to which the driver again responds. The Agent then secondaries the military officer without any further discussion. This is shown in the video here. The time that elapsed between the driver arriving at the checkpoint and the driver being ordered to secondary was a mere fifteen seconds (only ten seconds of which involved questions by the agent). More importantly, what Chief Harris fails to mention is that the “routine inspection” the agent attempted to conduct had nothing whatsoever to do with immigration status. From the very beginning, the agent makes his intention to violate the Fourth Amendment clear, as he fails to stay within the lines drawn by the judiciary. Whether the driver owns the vehicle or is leasing it has no bearing on his immigration status. We notice in the short fifteen second “routine inspection” there are no other questions. Not even the patented, “Are you an American citizen?” This is no doubt troubling for Chief Harris since the Supreme Court has made it clear the ONLY reason these checkpoints are allowed is to briefly determine immigration status. If those running the checkpoint are not brief, or use the checkpoint for reasons outside of determining immigration status, as they did in this instance, the High Court has stated the stop is un-Constitutional. The video shows this fact began to dawn on the agents over time as they begin to concoct false reasons for the lengthy detention of the driver. In fact, the video clearly shows multiple examples of the lead agent, Agent Lands, blatantly lying. Despite knowing he was being recorded, Agent Lands continued to maintain that he had asked the driver about his citizenship in primary and that the driver refused to answer. But the fifteen seconds of primary inspection video shows that is clearly not the case. Still, Agent Lands lies about why he has secondaried the driver. First he fabricates that
- 1) the driver was evasive about answering questions in primary, then that
- 2) the driver refused to answer when asked his immigration status in primary, followed by claiming
- 3) he failed to answer unspecified questions, and then later that
- 4) the driver violated immigration law, and then once again states
- 5) the driver violated immigration law, and that he had articulable facts to support that charge.
Agent Lands is shown to be severely confused about his job, and appears to think the checkpoint in Uvalde, Texas is actually on the border where citizens’ rights have been reasonably curtailed, due to the nature of border entry. Agent Lands teaches the driver a lesson on the law and states that he only needs “mere suspicion” to secondary the driver for an immigration violation. While the driver correctly informs the agent he needs “reasonable suspicion” to detain him (note this conversation happens roughly twelve minutes into the seizure and not a single question concerning immigration status had been asked), the agent tells the driver he only needs mere suspicion and that the driver needs to “brush up” on his law. This is true, as the driver erroneously stated that only reasonable suspicion was required to perform a vehicle search when, in actuality, the stricter standard of probable cause is required. Unfortunately for Agent Lands, however, he was the one being paid to enforce the law. He demonstrated that he needs to brush up on both the law and Border Patrol procedure. According to the official Border Patrol Inspector’s Field Manual (2008), “mere suspicion” only applies on the border, and reasonable suspicion is required for detention, as the driver informed him.
18.7(A), Mere Suspicion:
At the border…, an inspector needs only mere suspicion to justify a search and comply with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. This is because the person is attempting to enter the United States from abroad and may reasonably be required to demonstrate that the person and his or her belongings are entitled to enter the United States.
18.7(B), Reasonable Suspicion:
Before an inspector may constitutionally detain a person (non-entry related cases), the inspector must have reasonable suspicion that the person is an alien and is illegally in the United States. This higher degree of suspicion…is based on questioning of alienage alone…
The fact Agent Lands thought he was on the border of Mexico, may help explain why he did not afford the driver his due Constitutional rights. As the Border Patrol manual states, mere suspicion complies with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment on the border. It does not, however, suffice for a twelve minute detention (let alone a thirty-five minute one), when located forty miles away from the border in Uvalde, Texas.
When his Border Patrol supervisor, Captain Perez, finally shows up (after a huddle with the other agents), he also maintains that the driver refused to answer about his citizenship in primary. “That’s what we do right there in primary,” he says. A simple preview of the fifteen second primary inspection clearly shows the driver was never asked his immigration status, never refused to answer any questions, and that the immigration law violation assertion was completely unfounded. Chief Harris is angry because video technology removes the ability of his agents to slander and libel American citizens from the shadows.
“Mr. [redacted] would only roll his window down a few inches, which made it very difficult for the agent to have a clear conversation with him. There was quite a bit of traffic related noise in the primary lane and the agent could not clearly communicate with Mr. [redacted]. Additionally, a tractor trailer had pulled up directly behind Mr. [redacted]’s vehicle, and this made it even more difficult for the agent to communicate with Mr. [redacted].”
First, the driver’s window was rolled down sufficiently to communicate. In the fifteen seconds spent in primary, the two questions Agent Lands asked were heard and responded to, and Agent Lands understood the responses. That is effective communication.
Second, the repeated claim by the agents that they cannot hear the driver are shown transparently false by the video. As the video clearly shows that Agent Lands is dishonest, it comes as no surprise that claims of not being able to hear are also shown to be false. For example, consider the first communications between the driver and Agent Lands. Notice the window is rolled down only partially. The driver states, “What’s going on?” Without skipping a beat Agent Lands responds, “How’s it going today?” The driver responds, “Good, how are you doing?” Again, Agent Lands instantly replies, “Doing well.” Agent Lands does not respond, “I can’t hear you because your window isn’t rolled down enough and there is a tractor trailer behind you.” He responds quickly and effortlessly and contextually correctly to the driver. Simply put, he can hear the driver. He then asks, “Is this your vehicle, sir?” The driver responds, “It is” and Agent Lands immediately says, “Ok, can you roll down your window? Is that as far as it will go?” Again he doesn’t state, “I’m sorry, I’m having a tough time hearing you” but rather responds, “Ok” and then asks about the window. When the driver only rolls the window down a few more inches, Agent Lands secondaries him. As to the tractor trailer, the video shows the truck did not stop behind the driver’s vehicle until after the agent had asked all his questions. It would appear the agent secondaried him for not rolling his window down all the way, as though not rolling the window down completely presented a physical barrier that offended Agent Lands. The agent may not have liked the window not being all the way down, but the video makes it clear any concern had nothing to do with the ability to communicate. The video clearly shows Agent Lands hears the driver in primary with his window only partially rolled down. Interestingly, at the end of the incident and after the Border Patrol Headquarters in Washington DC was called, and the FBI was called, Agent Lands says that he understands if the driver doesn’t want to roll his window down all the way. He asks the window just be down enough to communicate. Of course, the video shows the driver did exactly that and it stands to reason had Agent Land’s question in primary simply been, “Are you an American citizen?” instead of the un-Constitutional, “Is this vehicle yours?” that this video would not have made its way to the internet. The communication in primary on vehicle ownership and the physics of window operation was solid. Unfortunately the agent chose not to ask about immigration status.
The agents unfortunately stayed the course in their fabrication that they couldn’t hear the driver. Notice here that the driver is having an effective conversation with Agent Lands with his window rolled all the way UP for nearly a minute. Oddly enough, earlier the agents claim they can’t hear the driver despite the same physical circumstances. One agent shrugs to indicate he can’t hear. When the driver refuses to roll his window down, however, communication then proceeds just fine. Still later Agent Lands goes back to his story that he cannot hear the driver with the window rolled all the way up. The driver then cracks the window (noticeably not as far down as it was in primary) and asks Agent Lands, “can you hear me?” How does Agent Lands respond? He responds, “Yeah.” He says that he can hear the driver, despite the window not being down as far as it was in primary, but he then says in his repeated contradictory style, “But if you want to talk, crack it some more so I can hear you.” In other words, “Yes, I can hear you, but crack your window more so I can hear you.” Listen to this exchange here. The condition the agent sets for “talking” has nothing to do with communication. The supervisor, Captain Perez, later claims this same story of barely being able to hear the driver. Notice, despite the window being partially rolled down and despite the driver being in secondary far away from the Indy 500 speedway that is apparently Highway Ninety, Captain Perez says, “I can barely hear you” to which the driver responds that he’ll speak up. Captain Perez doesn’t skip a beat saying, “Ok,” and they have a conversation with unfettered communication.
“After several attempts to get Mr. [redacted] to roll down his window, the Border Patrol agent referred him to secondary inspection. (A referral to secondary inspection also prevents the traffic from backing up in the primary lane of traffic.)”
From initial primary questioning to the order to secondary, elapsed a mere ten seconds. In that time, Agent Lands asks, “Can you roll down your window? Is that as far as it will go?” The driver answers the question and rolls his window down further. No further mention of the window is made in primary. This is hardly “several attempts.” More importantly, the driver had no obligation to roll his window down further while the agent asked him questions that had nothing to do with his immigration status. As a side note, traffic would not back up if Chief Harris’ agents did their jobs correctly and asked about immigration status in primary instead of harassing motorists.
“At secondary inspection, the Border Patrol agent approached Mr. [redacted]’s vehicle in an effort to speak with him and Mr. [redacted] rolled his window all the way up. Mr. [redacted] refused to exit his vehicle or roll down his window in order for the agents to have a clear conversation with him.”
What Chief Harris fails to mention is that after the ten seconds of primary questioning, the very first thing Agent Lands conveys to the driver in secondary is an order to exit his vehicle. We wonder, if the driver had been sent to secondary to get him to a more quiet location, one of several different rationales provided by the agents, why would he be ordered out of his vehicle? Why wouldn’t the conversation simply continue in the more quiet location? It appears the order to secondary had nothing to do with communication. Regardless, the driver had no obligation to exit his vehicle and expose himself and his vehicle to the whims of the unscrupulous agents who secondaried him without cause. It is understandable that the driver would feel threatened given the strange behavior of the agents, and understandable he would roll his window all the way up. Chief Harris repeats the provably false assertion that his agents’ actions were performed in order to facilitate “clear conversation.” One must wonder if that “conversation” would have involved force. The words of Agent Lands early in the detention demonstrate this possibility. When the driver asks why he’s being detained, Agent Lands says, “Well, if you’ll get out I’ll be more than happy to explain it to you. If you’re going to stay there then we’ll just do this the hard way.” The hard way? For answering every question asked (none relevant to immigration status), and for being cooperative (other than legally refusing to exit his vehicle or roll his window down), the agent threatens the driver with the hard way? This leads us to believe the fetish with the driver exiting the vehicle, or rolling his window down all the way, had more to do with the desire to use force against the citizen. Certainly it was not a matter of communication. The driver was wise not to put himself in a position to find out. But it was a funny situation, apparently, as the armed federal agents joked and smoked about this mere citizen they were going to show the “hard way.” Agent Lands tells the other agents, “He told me…” and they all get a good chuckle.
“Mr. [redacted] immediately began to question the agent’s authority for directing him into secondary and continued to refuse to roll down his window. The behavior displayed by Mr. [redacted] was out of the ordinary, which immediately raised the agent’s suspicions. We inspect, quite literally, thousands of people per day and Mr. [redacted]’s actions were very unusual, clearly intended to create a confrontational atmosphere and prevent the officer from performing a routine immigration inspection.”
The driver was absolutely correct to question the agent’s authority for directing him into secondary after answering the two un-Constitutional and irrelevant questions put to him (vehicle ownership and window operation) and then being immediately ordered out of his vehicle. We look forward to the agents’ “authority” being further questioned in federal court. As to raising suspicions, the question is, “suspicions of what?” Suspicion that the driver did not want to grant access to his person beyond what was required to communicate? “Suspicion” is a useless term in this situation unless agents are suspicious of a particular crime, and have articulable facts that rise to the level of “reasonable suspicion” for that crime. As the courts have affirmed, simply not cooperating does not provide this suspicion. If it did, citizens would have no rights since law enforcement would first ask for consent to do whatever, and then consider any “no” answer to be reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Chief Harris’ mind reading skills clearly need work (though it is impressive that his psychic powers are undeterred despite his choice to rely on second hand information instead of watching the video of the actual incident). Based on his second hand information, Chief Harris pronounces that the driver’s intention was “clearly” to prevent Agent Lands from performing a routine immigration inspection. Had Chief Harris watched the video, however, he would have seen Agent Lands prevented himself from inspecting immigration matters by being wholly uninterested in them, instead choosing to ask about vehicle ownership and window mechanics.
“Mr. [redacted] became very argumentative and challenged the Border Patrol’s authority at the checkpoint. Mr. [redacted] stated he was in the military and asked if he didn’t look like a U.S. citizen.”
Here Chief Harris shows that his integrity is on par with his agents. While he is entitled to his opinion (based on his second hand sources) that the driver was argumentative, he is a bit too broad when he states the driver challenged the Border Patrol’s authority at the checkpoint. The driver challenged these Border Patrol agents’ authority to detain him without reasonable suspicion of any crime, and without concern for his immigration status. Chief Harris then fabricates the statement that the driver asked “if he didn’t look like a U.S. citizen” in an apparent attempt to falsely paint the driver as an idiot at best, or a racist at worse. Had Chief Harris been concerned enough to watch the full video footage of the entire incident before falsely maligning this military officer to his commander, he would have seen that nowhere did the driver make such a statement. Perhaps the Chief would then have thought twice about libeling a citizen.
“The agents asked for identification and Mr. [redacted] put his passport and [redacted] driver’s license against the inside of the window for the agents to see through the glass.”
Chief Harris is a bit off on his facts. As to identification, which the driver is not obligated to provide according to the Border Patrol itself, the driver was asked for identification and responded by putting his driver’s license and military ID on the window for the agents to inspect. Agent Lands began writing down information from the provided identification into a notepad and never asked for either ID to be given to him physically. In addition, despite asking for the driver’s identification, Agent Lands later said that both of the identification cards provided were irrelevant and didn’t mean anything because they were not immigration documents, despite the fact that he specifically asked for identification (and not a passport). This begs the question, if the identification requested was irrelevant to immigration status, why did Agent Lands further the detention to copy information from those IDs into his notepad? Unfortunately for Agent Lands, a military ID is in fact proof of a legal immigration status. While an enlisted person in the military may not be an American citizen, they always have a legal immigration status. All military officers, however, are American citizens. In either case, a military member always has a legal immigration status. So while the identification didn’t mean anything to Agent Lands, it should have. Since Agent Lands was unconcerned with immigration status, the driver attempted to do the agent’s job for him and immediately asked, “Do you want a passport?” What did Agent Lands do? He stutters a bit, ignores the offering of the passport all together, and instead asks the driver if he’s an American citizen for the first time (because that’s clearly better for determining immigration status than inspecting the passport offered to him), and then begins lying that he had asked the driver his citizenship in primary. We note the Border Patrol agrees there is no better document for determining U.S. citizenship than a U.S. passport, yet Agent Lands has no interest in it. Strangely, twenty minutes later at the end of the seizure, Agent Lands tells the driver that if he wants to in the future just hand the passport to the agent, “that will be fine.” Agent Lands says that offering the passport to the agents, “eliminates a lot of the talking.” But the video shows in this instance that wasn’t the case as he, and his fellow agents, were not interested in passports or immigration status. Agents Lands lies that the driver wouldn’t let him look at the passport, although the video shows that wasn’t the case since Agent Lands did not take the passport when offered, and the first agent to ask for the passport received it. Since the agent is clearly uninterested in the driver’s passport, though not satisfied when the driver answers his citizenship question, the driver again takes the initiative to help out the flailing agents. He puts both his personal passport and his official passport on the window along with military ID and driver’s license. That’s a total of three documents proving his legal immigration status, and a driver’s license.
The agents remain uninterested in the offered passports until the supervisor, Captain Perez, asks for both passports (more than fifteen minutes into the detention). This is the first time any document is requested physically and the only time a passport is requested despite the driver offering it to the agents much earlier. When requested, the driver slips both passports to the supervisor through the already partially open window. Captain Perez says, “Let me check out your passport and we’ll get you on your way” in a stroke of pure Border Patrol genius. But it doesn’t end there. Rather, the driver is only at the half way point of this unlawful seizure. Does it take fifteen minutes to inspect a passport? Of course not. But the agents were still not concerned with immigration status. After Captain Perez says he will get the driver on his way, the driver says that he can prove that he was not asked about his immigration status in primary as he had everything on video. The driver offering proof of events apparently angers the Border Patrol supervisor. Captain Perez becomes fixated with punishing the citizen over his audacious recording of public servants on a public highway. Instead of inspecting the passports to finally determine immigration status as he said he would do, he instead begins asking questions that again have nothing to do with determining the driver’s status. He states that he will contact the driver’s military supervisor. The driver asks why he would need to contact the military and then asks, “Are you not convinced that I’m an American citizen?” Captain Perez stutters (just as Agent Lands did when he was offered the passport initially), and says, “No. I’m asking you…” He answers the question with “No.” It’s not a matter of determining his immigration status, as Captain Perez states, rather he’s contacting the driver’s military commander because it’s “the job” of the Border Patrol to contact every employer. Even when they have the best documentation of citizenship in their hands, Captain Perez says it’s their job to contact the employers of citizens passing through the checkpoint. Interesting. We know nine people in robes who might just deem Captain Perez’s inspection methods as “unreasonable,” in the “unreasonable seizure” kind of way. So what was the real reason the Border Patrol captain wanted to know the identity of the driver’s boss? It’s obvious. Like the captain’s boss, Chief Harris, he wanted to punish the driver with his employer. Captain Perez’s harassment and threats had nothing at all to do with determining immigration status.
“This, again, is very uncharacteristic of the traffic we encounter at the Uvalde Checkpoint.”
This, again, while unfortunate for the state of liberty in America, is irrelevant.
“The vehicular traffic passing under the checkpoint canopy makes it difficult for the agents to hear any conversations through a rolled up window. The Border Patrol agent asked Mr. [redacted] to exit his vehicle and he again refused. [Redacted] was typing on a lap top computer while sitting in his vehicle.”
Chief Harris again goes back to the transparently false “we can’t hear you” claim and again mentions the driver (rightly and legally) refused to exit his vehicle. As the video shows, the driver had plenty of time to kill while waiting on the agents to return to his vehicle while he was being illegally detained for more than thirty minutes.
“A Border Patrol supervisor requested Mr. [redacted]’s identification. Mr. [redacted] rolled down his window approximately 1/4″ and passed his identification to the supervisor.”
More accurately, the supervisor requested his passports, not his identification which Agent Lands said didn’t mean anything. The driver did not need to roll his window down to pass the passports to the supervisor as his window was already rolled down.
“The Border Patrol supervisor requested the name of [redacted]’s commanding officer’s [sic] and he refused to provide this information. The supervisor wanted to corroborate the information that Mr. [redacted] was conveying to the agents. The supervisor then telephoned [redacted]. After speaking with [redacted], Chief Security Force and [redacted], [redacted] Commander at [redacted] in conjunction with the examination of Mr. [redacted]’s identification and passports, it was determined that he was a U.S. citizen and he was released.”
Chief Harris’ effort to whitewash the actions of Captain Perez fail thanks to the video evidence. He falsely claims that Captain Perez contacted the driver’s military commander to corroborate the driver’s immigration status. This brings up several interesting questions. Are the driver’s two passports, military ID, driver’s license, and affirmative answer to the citizenship question not enough to determine his immigration status? If those documents are sufficient, does it take a Border Patrol supervisor fifteen minutes to make a citizenship determination? Is a supervisor required to ask for and inspect passports, or could Agent Lands have done this himself in the first fifteen minutes? Does the Border Patrol normally call the employers of citizens who have employment? What if the driver was unemployed? However would the Border Patrol meet their mandate to briefly inquire into immigration status without an employer to call? What if the driver had exercised his right to remain silent and not answered any questions, instead of voluntarily providing the agents with so much non-required information? The answer is, of course, obvious. Yes, the agents had excessive documentation voluntarily provided to them by the driver proving his immigration status and there was no need to contact his employer. Even Captain Perez admits this when he says he will check out the driver’s passport and get him on his way, instead of saying, “Let me check out your passport and then call your military commander and then we’ll have you on your way.” Captain Perez only becomes interested in contacting the driver’s employer later, and apparently to show the driver who’s boss when he mentions he has everything recorded on video. The next fifteen minutes of detention are the result of unprofessional agents attempting to punish a citizen who had the nerve to think he could exercise his Constitutional rights within his own country. Chief Harris’ letter then attempts to twist the harassment knife into the belly of this service member who likely has other things on his plate to deal with (like two wars, just for example).
It’s also interesting that Chief Harris maintains that the nearly thirty-five minute detention was all about simply determining the driver’s immigration status. It wasn’t because the driver refused to answer Agent Lands’ questions, as Agent Lands dishonestly maintained? It wasn’t because the driver violated immigration law, as Agent Lands dishonestly said? What about all the “little articulable facts” that Agent Lands referenced for the driver being detained? What happened to all those facts? Well apparently, according to Chief Harris, Agent Lands was incorrect in his several different explanations of why the driver was being illegally seized for such a lengthy time period. It was just to determine if the driver was an American citizen or not. Of course. Unfortunately Agent Harris doesn’t explain why it takes more than thirty minutes to make this determination. Had he watched the video he would understand the reason it took that long is because his agents couldn’t have cared less about the driver’s immigration status.
“Of concern in this matter, is the fact that Mr. [redacted] could have easily prevented this entire episode by simply lowering his window at primary inspection and declaring himself to be a United States Citizen.”
Well, now, the Chief has a concern. He’s not the only one who is concerned. If only the driver had rolled his window down all the way. It’s so easy, right? Why would a person not want to roll their window down and give an armed agent access to their body? Perhaps because of this, or maybe because of this, or perhaps for some of these reasons. It’s just personal privacy and space. What American values those things? Chief Harris apparently thinks his agents are unable to do their jobs, and that citizens who pay their salaries must do it for them. Hopefully the good Chief lobbies Congress and gets this law passed requiring citizens to ignore any Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and instead to volunteer their citizenship status without being asked. Perhaps he could go around and paint the signs in front of suspicionless checkpoints so instead of instructing vehicles only to stop, they inform citizens that they must also do this. If he really wants to get creative and save the taxpayer even more money, he might have the Border Patrol install fast food drive through machines so citizens can simply drive up, state their citizenship, and then be on their way. With the level of training and competence Chief Harris and his agents have displayed in this incident, it shouldn’t require too much training for them to sit behind a fast food drive through window. But, wait a second, would that really be a fool proof system? What if a person lied about their immigration status? We might need better trained personnel at these checkpoints instead, trained to ferret out hidden clues to get the real skinny. Clues like, for example, two passports and a military ID spread out on a window. You know, the stuff that’s not all that obvious to the untrained eye.
“By conducting himself in a manner clearly intended to raise suspicion and hinder the inspection process, he caused what could have been a very brief, routine conversation to become a much more involved ordeal. This was obviously his intent, since he had installed video recording equipment in his vehicle to capture the incident he planned to create.”
Chief Harris again demonstrates his Miss Cleo skills with words like “clearly” and “obviously” as he divines the intentions of the driver based on his second hand account instead of watching the video. He really shows off his education with his logical argument. The driver installed the cameras in his car, therefore he caused the incident. Just like a convenience store owner in the Bronx who installs cameras in his store, caused the criminals to break into the joint the next night. Makes perfect sense. It certainly could not be that the driver installed the equipment because he had routinely driven through that checkpoint and knew it was an un-Constitutional clown show from start to finish. No, that couldn’t be it. With the leadership of Chief Robert L. Harris? Not a chance.
“Along with our immigration law authority, the United States Border Patrol is tasked with detecting terrorists and terrorist weapons. We also have the authority to investigate and enforce a multitude of other crimes committed in a Border Patrol Agent’s presence, such as those observed while the Agent exercises his immigration authority.”
Heroic. Unfortunately also irrelevant. The driver did not commit any crime.
“As a result, we interdict a great deal of illegal narcotics during our checkpoint operations. Additionally, we encounter people wanted for a host of criminal violations to include such crimes as murder, kidnapping, robbery, auto theft etc.”
We also enjoy candle lit dinners, long walks on the beach, and a kind word from time to time. Again, irrelevant.
“We do this simultaneously honoring and defending the freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of this nation. We value the rights and privileges afforded by this country, but our difficult duty is to do our best to defend our homeland from those who would do her harm, while honoring the freedoms of the very people we seek to protect. It is a difficult task, but most of the people we encounter are actually appreciative of the role we play in service to our country.”
"We value the rights and privileges afforded by this country, but..."The Chief lets slip what he really thinks, but he uses buzzwords to sound patriotic. The Chief’s cut and paste patriotism, however, is sickening. He is a pom-pom “patriot” who lacks any understanding of, or appreciation for, the words he tosses around. If he wants to help protect this nation from harm, as he says, he should review his oath to the Constitution of the United States and his pledge to defend it from enemies, foreign and domestic. Then he should take a long look in the mirror. He is an embarrassment to this nation.
“Mr. [redacted]’s refusal to lower his window and engage in simple, courteous conversation required us to expend significant time, attention, effort and resources to determine what could have been accomplished with a short, cordial conversation.”
Right, it’s the driver’s fault again. Had only there been a short cordial conversation like, “Are you an American citizen” instead of, “Is this vehicle yours?”
“Although Mr. [redacted] was inside a quiet car, our agents were standing under a metal canopy with cars and trucks passing by. He apparently expected us to yell at the top of our voices in order to try and communicate under these conditions.”
Back to the communication line. One question for Chief Harris, if the driver was inside a quiet car why would he expect the agents to yell at the top of their voices? Since the driver could hear in his quiet car? Certainly the video shows the driver had no issues hearing, and even Agent Lands affirms this in the video. The Chief is grasping at straws in his attempt to justify the actions of his agents.
The video shows that during the more than thirty minutes the driver spent in secondary, seventy-eight vehicles passed the driver’s car. That equates to a vehicle passing the more distant secondary location each twenty-five seconds on average. As the entire questioning from Agent Lands in primary took only ten seconds, this should have afforded the agents plenty of time to communicate unfettered by their claimed traffic noise. Furthermore, the video shows stretches as long as a minute or more, in which there are no vehicles passing through the checkpoint. In one such stretch, the agents stand around the vehicle but do not attempt to communicate with the driver until the driver calls them over and asks if he can talk to somebody. The agents were not concerned with communication. Chief Harris’ communication argument fails.
“Mr. [redacted]’s videos of the event have been edited and uploaded onto the internet into a website called, ‘Veteran’s Against Police Abuse’ [sic], which by implication impugns the integrity of the United States Border Patrol as a whole, and its agents. We believe [redacted]’s conduct is unbecoming of such a high ranking officer in the [military service].”
Chief Harris should feel proud about violating the rights of a military officer and then telling his military boss that he is not fit to be in the military. Never mind the driver’s two years of combat deployment time or his decoration for heroism. Not to mention, of course, the fact that this military officer was extremely cooperative and conducted himself in accordance with the law, unlike Agent Harris’ employees. It is simply tragic that such a high ranking Border Patrol officer would leverage the charge of conduct unbecoming on a courageous serviceman who, at risk to his safety and his career, honored his oath and the military service. Despite this, if Chief Harris is to be believed, this driver should be removed from military service immediately. That would have no bearing at all on the Chief’s professed duty to hunt for terrorists and terrorist weapons. We have to ask the Chief and his agents, is there no limit to how much you seek to weaken the United States?
“Mr. [redacted]’s actions diverted personnel and resources from the primary inspection area. This may seem harmless to him, but diversion tactics are also commonly used by criminals attempting to move people and contraband through checkpoints and along secondary roadways. This is one of the reason [sic] his actions raised concerns about his status.”
Again, back to the argument that the driver forced the actions of the Border Patrol by answering all their questions (except for the identity of his military commander) and providing immigration documentation beyond what most motorists carry. If showing up to a checkpoint, answering questions, and having excessive documentation is a diversion tactic then perhaps the Chief thinks citizens should stop doing that. Perhaps the Chief is saying that drivers should show up to these checkpoints, exercise their right to remain silent, refuse to answer any questions or volunteer any information or documentation, and patiently wait to be released from the suspicionless checkpoint. That way a driver’s actions won’t be construed as a diversionary tactic and a citizen can’t be accused of magically controlling the actions of the poor helpless agents.
“If Mr. [redacted] has concerns about checkpoint operations, there are managers available at the Uvalde Border Patrol Station with which he can discuss those issues. The agents working the checkpoint are following orders, just as I assume Mr. [redacted] follows the orders of his commanding officers.”
We’re sure the driver is comforted by the stellar management of the Del Rio Sector. Ah yes, finally, the agents were just following orders. Orders that apparently contradict the Border Patrol’s Inspector’s Field Manual and the laws of the United States. We hope the good chief brings a copy of those orders to the courtroom. If the driver’s video is any indication, it is a safe bet that unlike Chief Harris and his agents, the military officer would have the courage to only follow legal orders. The video shows he had the American courage and conviction to obey his oath to support, bear true faith and allegiance to, and defend the Constitution of the United States against domestic enemies such as Agent Lands, Captain Perez, and the politically gifted Chief Robert L. Harris. We find no similarity between the Oath Taker military driver and the Oath Breaker agents. Perhaps there is a lesson in his example for the Chief to follow when the fog and friction of “diversion tactics” gets him confused on the battlefield of Highway Ninety, far from any border.
“In the future, I hope Mr. [redacted] will extend the United States Border Patrol the same respect and cooperation he would want if tasked with a similar mission in service to his country. The Border Patrol has absolutely no intention of violating the constitutional rights we all treasure. However, we are dedicated to duty and determined to work within the law to fulfill our mission of service to our country and its citizens.”
We must ask, why does Chief Harris choose the word “However” when talking about not violating constitutional rights, and then transitioning to a blurb on his dedication to duty? Wouldn’t a better word have been, “Likewise?” “We don’t intend to violate the Constitution, however….” Why use that word? Unless…
Chief, here’s a message from the true patriots, civilian and military, who have laid down their lives to protect the rights of American citizens, and to keep our country free. Are you ready? There is no “however” in your oath to defend the Constitution! Figure it out you oath-breaking traitor.
Robert L. Harris
Chief Patrol Agent
Del Rio Sector”
Thanks for your sincerity, Chief.
Below appear the various videos associated with this checkpoint incident:
Full version p1:
Full version p2:
Full version p3:
Full version p4: