Our children live in a world where they pass through a military-style checkpoint every morning and afternoon for school. Every time their parents take them to Tucson shopping. Every time they go to a friends house in Amado, or to Karate in Sahuarita. Men carry guns, dogs bark, lights flash. - Reason
On the weekend of May 27, 2015, a significant percentage of residents from Amado and Arivaca, AZ assembled at one of several federal CBP roadblocks that have been seizing local traffic entering and exiting their communities for the past eight years. During the assembly, residents staged a sit-in in order to draw attention to their long-standing petition for redress of grievances against the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) & its parent agency Customs & Border Protection (CBP). A petition that has been all but ignored by the powers that be:
So what are some of the abuses local residents have been putting up with over the past eight years? Broad categories include a steady stream of suspicionless profiling, intimidation, harassment, assaults, illegal detentions & illegal searches by armed federal agents who consider anyone who lives or commutes in the area suspicious while believing themselves to be above the law.
In recent years, the ACLU has been taking an interest in the ever-growing list of abuses perpetrated by the Border Patrol in the Southwest and has even enumerated a small fraction of those abuses in formal complaints to CBP:
Complaint and request for investigation of unlawful roving patrol stops by U.S. Border Patrol in southern Arizona including unlawful search and seizure, racial profiling, trespassing, excessive force, and destruction of personal property. - ACLU of Arizona
Complaint and request for investigation of abuses at U.S. Border Patrol interior checkpoints in southern Arizona, including unlawful search and seizure, excessive force, and racial profiling - ACLU of Arizona
After patiently waiting far longer than was necessary for CBP leadership in the Tucson sector to address their grievances and justify the ever-present suspicionless roadblocks surrounding their community, local residents stepped it up a notch in January 2014. Residents began volunteering as checkpoint monitors and assembling at nearby roadblocks to create their own record of roadblock enforcement actions since CBP officials were actively refusing to release documents detailing roadblock activities in their possession. In response, the agency began harassing, intimidating and threatening checkpoint monitors who dared to try to bring accountability to CBP. The harassment got so bad that checkpoint monitors had to file suit against CBP for violating their 1st amendment right to assemble & gather information about checkpoint operations. Actions that were only necessary in the first place because CBP officials were illegally witholding checkpoint information already in their possession.
That’s right. While Tucson sector CBP leadership was busy ignoring concerns & petitions from Amado and Arivaca residents while actively harassing those who were trying to lawfully observe CBP operations, officials were also showing their contempt for federal law by illegally refusing to respond to formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding roving patrol and checkpoint operations in the Tucson sector. This included FOIA requests from law professors at the University of Arizona.
In response, the ACLU of Arizona was forced to file suit against CBP for illegally witholding public documentation under the FOIA laws. In other words, the same agency that routinely demands complete transparency from individuals seized absent suspicion at internal roadblocks, also demands complete opacity for its agents and the operations it conducts against the travelling public in blatant violation of federal law.
So what could it be that Tucson Sector CBP officials are hiding? Let’s take a look at a few numbers published by DHS to try & find out. CBP statistics indicate that between 2010 and 2014, 7,799 illegal entrants were interdicted at internal checkpoints in the Tucson sector. At first glance 7,799 might sound like a lot but when you look at the total number of interdictions in the sector (which include line operations and other non-checkpoint operations) the picture shifts significantly. A breakdown of total interdictions by year appears below:
- 2014: 87,915
- 2013: 120,939
- 2012: 120,000
- 2011: 123,285
- 2010: 212,202
That’s a total of 664,341 total interdictions in the sector of which only 7,799 were made at internal checkpoints. That means internal checkpoints were responsible for a measly 1.2% of total interdictions over this five year time span yet the Border Patrol routinely wastes approximately 10% of its sector resources at internal checkpoints.
Once you start to understand the numbers, you start to understand why CBP leadership is willing to harass monitors & violate the FOIA law in order to try and hide these facts from the American people. Indeed, what these numbers show is that the primary purpose of these internal checkpoints isn’t to interdict illegal aliens given the abysmally low interception rate in comparison to non-checkpoint operations. Rather, the primary purpose is to make low-level drug busts in violation of City of Indianapolis V Edmond. Indeed, during the same five year time frame considered above, Border Patrol agents not patrolling the border intercepted approximately 160,000 lbs of drugs – the vast majority of which was marijuana – the same drug being legalized in more & more states across the union. This is why all of the Border Patrol’s internal checkpoints in the Tucson sector have drug sniffing dogs on hand. This is why the DEA cross-certifies Border Patrol agents to enforce federal drug laws. And this is why CBP allows the DEA to operate suspicionless camera array systems within the boundaries of internal Border Patrol checkpoints in the sector.
While CBP officials claim they conduct these internal checkpoints to serve and protect local communities, the actions of those officials paint a very different picture. Local communities that have to bear the brunt of the ‘service’ and ‘protection’ offered by CBP officials usually describe those actions using very different terminology. Just ask individuals and businesses located in Arivaca and Amado how much more ‘serving’ and ‘protecting’ they can take from CBP.
For more articles regarding this latest round of protests out of the occupied territories in the Southwest, see:
- Arizona residents protest Border Patrol checkpoints – AZ Republic
- Angry Arizonans Confront Agents at Border Patrol Checkpoints – Reason Online
- Residents Sit-In at US Border Patrol Checkpoint, Call on Rep. Grijalva to Support Its Permanent Closure – Border Community Action
For previous posts from this blog regarding this situation, see: