Rampant illegal actions by Border Patrol agents stationed in border states around the country has been the norm for quite some time now. The problem has only grown in recent years as the agency continues to expand at an alarming rate with few, if any, checks and balances. As such, it’s good to see the ACLU finally taking an active roll in seeking accountability for such illegal acts at internal checkpoints and by roving patrols.
What never ceases to amaze me however is despite the increased scrutiny of the Border Patrol in general, just how many Border Patrol agents there are who couldn’t care less while continuing to violate the law. This of course only serves to show just how arrogant the agency is and unaccountable its agents are.
Take for instance an account (see video above) of the illegal stop & search of Clarisa Christiansen and her two young children near Three Points, Arizona on May 21, 2013. The depraved actions of Border Patrol agents, who not only illegally seized & searched Clarisa’s vehicle but also threatened her with a knife and slashed her tires in order to leave her and her two children stranded in the desert, should send a shiver up everyone’s spine.
In addition to the video above, the incident is described in detail by the ACLU in a formal complaint regarding roving patrol abuse in Southern Arizona that was filed with the Department of Homeland Security on October 9, 2013:
On May 21, 2013, Clarisa Christiansen was driving home with her seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son after picking her daughter up from elementary school. Ms. Christiansen and her children are U.S. citizens and residents of Three Points, Arizona, located west of Tucson and approximately 40 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. On their way home, at approximately 2:15 pm, the family was pulled over by a Border Patrol vehicle. The stop occurred on a stretch of dirt road about two miles from their home, which is approximately fifteen miles from the elementary school.
Ms. Christiansen stopped her vehicle and was approached by a Border Patrol agent. The agent asked her if she was a U.S. citizen; she answered affirmatively. The agent then demanded that Ms. Christiansen exit her vehicle so it could be searched. Ms. Christiansen stated that she did not consent to a search and asked the agent why she had been stopped. The agent responded that he would not provide an explanation until Ms. Christiansen exited her vehicle. Ms. Christiansen stated that she would not exit her vehicle until she was provided with an explanation for the stop. The agent refused and was clearly agitated that Ms. Christiansen had requested an explanation. At that point, two additional Border Patrol agents approached Ms. Christiansen’s vehicle.
Ms. Christiansen then stated that if there was no reason for stopping her that she would be on her way, and wished the agent a good day. The agent told her, “You’re not going anywhere.” That agent then said to the other agents, “This one is being difficult, get the Taser.” The agent opened the driver’s side door and demanded that she exit. Ms. Christiansen, now fearing for her safety and that of her children, refused. Ms. Christiansen’s children became upset; her daughter asked, “Mommy what’s going on?” Ms. Christiansen told the children to stay calm and sit still, but she could see they were confused and afraid.
The agent then approached Ms. Christiansen with a retractable knife and threatened to cut her out of her seatbelt if she didn’t exit the vehicle. Ms. Christiansen repeated her demand for an explanation, which the agents still refused to give her. Instead, the agent forcibly reached inside Ms. Christiansen’s vehicle without her consent and removed the keys from the ignition.
Ms. Christiansen had no choice but to exit the vehicle. She presented her identification. The agents ran a background check, gave her back her driver’s license, returned to their vehicle without saying anything, and drove away. The entire stop lasted approximately 35 minutes. At that point, Ms. Christiansen noticed that her rear tire had been punctured and was flat. There was a large incision along the side of the tire, consistent with a knife puncture and not a routine or accidental flat. It was a very hot day and there was no one for miles around. Fortunately, Ms. Christiansen was able to contact her brother to bring her a car jack to change the flat tire.
Ms. Christiansen reported the incident as soon as she arrived home, at around 4:00 pm. She called Border Patrol headquarters in Tucson as well as the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. She was contacted the next day by DHS official Vincent Zarcone, who identified himself as an investigator. Ms. Christiansen relayed the details of her ordeal to Mr. Zarcone over the phone and stated that she was seeking compensation for the flat tire. Mr. Zarcone invited Ms. Christiansen to his office to make a formal report, and asked that she bring the tire for evidence.
The next day, Ms. Christiansen met with Mr. Zarcone and two other DHS officials at 4720 N. Oracle Road, Suite 308 in Tucson, Arizona. Again she described the agents and their actions, and repeated her request for compensation. Mr. Zarcone and the other officials took down her story. Ms. Christiansen also provided Mr. Zarcone with the damaged tire and a receipt showing the cost of a replacement tire, which totaled approximately $50.00. Mr. Zarcone photographed but kept the flat tire. He told Ms. Christiansen that she “might” get a call regarding the case.
When Ms. Christiansen contacted Mr. Zarcone in late June 2013, a month after they had met, he told her the case had “been investigated.” When she asked what the outcome would be, he did not say. Only after the ACLU contacted Mr. Zarcone on Ms. Christiansen’s behalf did he report that the matter had been transferred to another DHS official, Richard Hill. Ms. Christainsen’s attempted to contact Mr. Hill, but Mr. Hill did not initially respond. Finally, he responded that Ms. Christiansen’s request for compensation was “not something my office deals with” and provided her with an FTCA complaint form.
Mr. Hill subsequently contacted Ms. Christiansen, informed her that he believed the tire was “torn” and had not been intentionally punctured. Mr. Hill also disclosed that one of the agents involved in the May 21 incident was named Agent Laguna. Mr. Hill further stated that he planned to interview Agent Laguna that day and would follow up with Ms. Christiansen at a later time. As of the date of this letter, Mr. Hill has failed to do so. Ms. Christiansen has been provided no further information.
Several additional online articles related to this case can be found at:
- Border Patrol Threatens Mother, Slashes Her Tire, as Kids Watch – Reason
- Border Patrol Terrorizes a Mom and Her Two Kids – ACLU
- ACLU Wants CBP’s Roving Patrols Investigated In Arizona – Fronteras Desk
In addition to the cases of roving patrol abuse documented by the ACLU in its complaint, I’ve documented several cases of my own over the years. Links to a few of these cases appear below: