A federal magistrate in Phoenix, Arizona recently chastisedU.S. Customs & Border Protection (USCBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for blatant violations of the Freedom of Information Act. The magistrate’s findings were the result of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the ACLU & two University of Arizonalaw professors over three years ago.
While violations of federal law by DHS and USCBP are nothing new and FOIA lawsuits against them are numerous, what’s relatively unique in this case is the subject of the FOIA lawsuit referenced above. Specifically, it targets the Green Monster’s policies & procedures regarding interior enforcement operations such as internal roadblocks and roving patrols along with complaints filed against USCBP related to the enforcement of those policies and procedures.
I started writing this blog entry, regarding a disabled school teacher dragged out of her vehicle and forced to the ground at a Marfa, TX checkpoint in 2015, shortly after first hearing about it. Unfortunately, I let the story get away from me by sitting on it for too long as I tried doing research on several related issues and waiting for more information regarding the incident to come to light. To be frank, I forgot about it after a while and didn’t come across it again until just recently while dusting off the website & prepping for new content. Despite the age of the incident however, I think it’s an important story to highlight because it shows several things that are so very wrong with interior suspicionless roadblocks in America.
While I have much to say about Rick Rynearson’s treatment at the hands of jack-booted Border Patrol thugs at internal suspicionless roadblocks and black-robed judicial thugs in the judicial system, I’ll let Rick speak for himself….
It is an issue that affects millions of American motorists: Can border patrol agents detain you simply because they believe you are being difficult? Last year, a federal court concluded that it was “reasonable” for border patrol agents performing citizenship checks to detain Richard Rynearson at an immigration checkpoint for 23 minutes after he offered the agents both his military and personal passports, without any suspicion of criminal activity. In rejecting Rynearson’s Fourth Amendment claims, the court brushed aside compelling evidence—captured on video—that the agents deliberately prolonged Rynearson’s detention because he dared to question the propriety of some of their questions and instructions.
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:
Proving itself to be an equal opportunity harasser regardless of what border it operates near, Border Patrol agents stationed near Canada were recently caught on tape illegally detaining, physically assaulting and tasering 21 year old Jessica Cooke near Waddington, New York. The incident occurred on May 7, 2015 and the agents primarily responsible for the assault can be seen above as well as in the video below:
With a few exceptions like agent Mike Flanders, only on April Fools Day in the alleged Land of the Free can you see how Border Patrol agents should conduct themselves at internal immigration checkpoints (other than not conducting them at all that is)….
Looks like I’m not the only Arizonan fed up with armed Border Patrol agents seizing folks absent suspicion along public roads inside the country to interrogate, search and generally harass them absent individualized suspicion of wrongdoing.
Showing both courage and integrity, the video above depicts an active duty Border Patrol agent speaking out against the unlawful actions of fellow agents at so-called internal immigration checkpoints in Southern California.
Mike Flanders went public with his allegations of Border Patrol misconduct at internal checkpoints after his attempts at redress within CBP (Customs and Border Protection) were rebuffed. Not only were his concerns marginalized by his chain of command but his duties at the Interstate-8 checkpoint near Pine Valley were suspended and he was reassigned to roving patrol while an internal investigation and other adversarial actions were initiated against him.
In other words, Agent Flanders was retaliated against for daring to question the illegal actions of the agency. Something Customs & Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security are obviously quite good at – retaliation that is as opposed to Border Protection or Homeland Security.
On January 15, 2014, the ACLU of Southern Arizona filed formal complaints with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and Office For Civil Rights and Civil Liberties regarding CBP’s conduct of internal checkpoints in Southern Arizona. In the complaint, the ACLU details a dozen incidents of gross Border Patrol abuse at these checkpoints over the past fifteen months or so.
Having experienced first hand the harassment of Border Patrol agents at these types of checkpoints over the past six years, none of the abuses highlighted came as a surprise to me. Indeed, several themes appear to be repeated over and over again. First, many of the incidents described by the ACLU are ones where Border Patrol agents never even bother to ask the vehicle occupants their immigration status even though immigration is the sole ‘legitimate’ purpose of the roadblocks. Second, the number of false or falsified drug dog alerts described in the complaint should be eye opening. Third, many of the Border Patrol agents described in the complaint are equal opportunity abusers. It doesn’t matter to them if the person they’re abusing is male or female, six years old or seventy seven. Everyone daring to use the public roads these federal roadblocks have been setup along are fair game. Everyone is a target.
My thanks go out to the ACLU for helping to shed additional light on the true nature of these federal roadblocks and the so-called public servants who operate them.