Civil liberties vs BP checkpoints

This isn’t the first video I watch of someone challenging the Border Patrol agents at checkpoints; but, this is the first one I see in Laredo, on our own I-35. I have the feeling that more will come and I am sure the Border Patrol agency will be talking about how to handle those who choose to challenge being asked for citizenship status.

While I do believe our civil liberties must be protected (as I watch their erosion in little moves here and there), I am not so sure I would do what these guys are doing but to each their own and consequences to their own. I would guess, just a guess, that a Border Patrol agent or supervisor might note the defiance and think “this guy has to be a US citizen.”

El Amigo Partner and I might differ on where we stand on this particular challenge but I am grateful we can have a discussion on the “what happens” and “what about civil liberties” and “what is it like to encounter a challenge when you are just someone trying to do your job” and so on. He made a solid point in stating that there is a big difference between an educated person who knows pertinent laws and wants to challenge the system and those copycats who might come later and … there is no telling the outcome. But, it doesn’t matter what our discussions are like, check out the YouTube video on this checkpoint challenge:



Before you assume que lo estoy tirando a loco, I am not; but, I don’t necessarily agree with the method or some of that tinge of arrogance. I did watch some of the other videos on Mr. Jimenez’ Traces of Reality YouTube channel and I listened intently to the following video of Traces of Reality Radio #2 – “Black Helicopters and Tin Foil Hats” .

To those that want to brush off the increased militarization of the border, particularly here in Laredo, there is nothing wrong with the average citizen asking questions. Repeat, there is nothing wrong with asking about the latest changes of what flies in our skies rather than just accept the government message sent out in press releases (nothing against my law enforcement PR friends who obviously do a great job) and arranged photo opportunities (for those who follow the media rules). It is our responsibility to ask the uncomfortable questions and not just complain about the noise. This issue isn’t about noise and it isn’t about knocking down the hope of an economic windfall by having a military base in Laredo (yes, I keep hearing that verbalized). We should be involved and engaged citizens. So check it out:

Note – I try to stay neutral and I talk about what I write beforehand with people I respect and do/don’t necessarily agree with. I debated on whether to shut off the comments section because this post is really just highlighting someone else’s work and there are some pretty disrespectful folks out there. Just note that if your message comes in as spam, it will be deleted as spam. If you bash one side or the other, your comment on my personal hobby blog (which has no sponsors but me) will not be approved.

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Que Fregados is a quirky look at little things that strike us funny in Laredo and the unique Latino culture. Suggestions and comments are welcome. You can also email to quefregados@gmail.com.
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21 Responses to Civil liberties vs BP checkpoints

  1. Thank you for opening up this dialogue on this important civil liberty issue. I have been a casual reader of this blog for some time. One thing I would like to address – this is not the first time it has been suggested that I am a bit arrogant. I think I may come off that way at times, because I am confident in my understanding of civil liberty issues and I know where I stand in the privacy/liberty vs. security/tyranny debate. However, I do consider myself a humble, ordinary guy, who happens to believe very strongly in liberty.

    To gain a better understanding on my view – and what I believe is happening to our city, state and country (the drills, the drones, the checkpoints), I would like to encourage you and your readers to have a look or a listen to last week’s (and the week prior) episode of Traces of Reality Radio. I welcomed other views on the show “Borderland Battlefield”, including those contrary to my own, by interviewing City Councilman Alex Perez of District 3 in Laredo, as well as Meg Guerra owner/publisher of LareDOS Newspaper. All that can be found on my website, the link to which you have already provided in your article.

    In the broadcast just uploaded yesterday “Checkpoint City” (08.06.12), I talk in detail about the nerve-racking experience that was driving up that checkpoint – the anxiety, the moments of self-doubt. I acknowledged that my methodology was not the best, but I did what I did because I believed it to be right. As I said on the show, “reasonable suspicion”, “mere suspicion”, US Code of Law, Supreme Court cases, in the end… none of that matters. I believe very firmly: Internal checkpoints in America, or any free society, are wrong – and are a hallmark of a country on a decline towards tyranny.

    Thank you again for continuing this dialogue. Sincerely.
    – Guillermo Jimenez

    • Que Fregados says:

      I’m sure I will be watching more of your work. I may not agree on all of your methodology or all of your ideas but I respect that you want to get your point across. Sorry about the arrogant part but yeah, still think you come across as arrogant. You probably are not in different situations but in the video… nevermind. ¡Suerte!

  2. Lisa says:

    Thank you for posting this. It is not the kind of thing I would normally see in the media and social media that I follow, yet it is important for citizens to be aware of. It certainly stirs up a mixture of emotions in me. I appreciate you posting something out of your usual comfort zone and for giving me something o think about.

  3. YayaOrchid says:

    I wonder if their ‘mere’ suspicion was the color of his skin. I don’t mean to sound racist myself, but it would be interesting to see if a fair skinned, blue eyed anglo English speaking individual has to state their citizenship status. Perhaps that warrants an investigation in itself- for the sake of argument.

    • Que Fregados says:

      I am guessing probably not. I’ve been in cars with quite the mix and we all get asked. I am not saying racism doesn’t exist but they have to ask everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity. My guess is that the 1st guy got a little aggressive because the driver was not listening to him. He followed procedure by sending him to secondary and calling his supervisor but I don’t think this scenario happens every day for guys usually used to being the one in charge. Think of it this way (that in no way is the same thing that goes on at checkpoints but its to draw a point), if I politely ask you for the salt in a restaurant and you say, “no, I don’t want to,” I would feel a twinge of anger. Now imagine if it were your job for several hours to ask car after car? The good thing was that the sup didn’t escalate it, he just let them go.

      • Erinn says:

        Actually, I know a blue-eyed gringo who used to live in Encinal. Was faculty at TAMIU. He had to drive through the checkpoint more than most people I know, and in turn, had more attitude, searches and problems thrown on him than anyone else I have known to frequent the checkpoint.

    • Yaya- I definitely appreciate that people who might fit a “physical profile” (not that I’m saying there is a profile), would feel targeted- but I can tell you that we have been stopped through that checkpoint every single time and my daughter and husband are very, very anglo. We have been stopped so frequently that my perception is that it is a 100% check….

  4. Dan says:

    As far as I can tell, the case that the BP agent cites U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976) is on point and good law. In it, the Supreme Court holds that the \”stops and questioning [of citizenship] at issue may be made in the absence of any individualized suspicion at reasonably located checkpoints.\” Therefore, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the decision, the law seems to be such that BP agents can stop you at checkpoints and ask you whether or not you are a citizen of the U.S. without first articulating any suspicion. However, reasonable suspicion may be required to search you or your vehicle.

    Read the case here: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=428&invol=543

    That said, even if they were wrong on the law, I give these guys a lot of credit for taking their civil liberties seriously.

  5. Poncho1950 says:

    “Tyranny” is a powerful word, and it does not apply here. When you have no recourse to a legal defense, when you can be summarily seized, beaten, jailed, tortured or “disappeared” and the government does not have to answer for it, that is tyranny. Insofar as being stopped — that’s normal at a checkpoint. Given the huge amount of illegal drugs entering this country, and the high number of illegal immigrants, the presence of these checkpoints near the border is to be expected. That officials don’t stop that much of the illicit traffic is not surprising, because they don’t have tyrannical search and seizure powers. But were they not there at all, far more drugs and undocument people would flow through, and likely some other, non-Mexican nationals (OTM — Other Than Mexicans — in the parlance of the Border Patrol) who have a political grudge against the United States and/or its citizens and want to exact revenge. Such people follow the path of least resistance, so the checkpoints are important for pushing them to other paths, such as acquiring visas, where they are more visible and hence, trackable.

    As for confrontations with law enforcement officials — they’re not social workers or counselors. Their job is not to care how you feel. They don’t give a flying fig if you’re having a good day or a bad one. They’re just trying to get their job done. Most of them are pretty decent about it, and a few have an attitude problem. Give attitude, and you get it right back. They have procedures to follow, and they are quick to do so. They will not allow you to take control of a situation; it’s not in their nature and certainly not in their training. So it’s not a battle that you’re going to win, unless you are the victim of egregious, extralegal action by a law enforcement official or agency, and then you have recourse to legal action — after the encounter.

    Should we question? Yes. Should we be aware of incursions on our civil liberties? Yes, but the guy flying the helicopter or manning the checkpoint didn’t make the policy decision. They’re simply doing what they were hired to do, and when you compare them with law enforcement officials in some other countries — where any challenge is met with violence — these officials are quite professional and respectful of personal liberty. If a security policy irks you, ask the decision makers about it. They made the policy decisions, and they are the only ones who can change them.

    • Poncho1950- “They’re not social workers or counselors. Their job is not to care how you feel.” haha! I think I love you. You have a way with words.

    • Anonymous says:

      Legalize all drugs! Set up detox centers!

      • Poncho1950 says:

        “Legalize” in what sense? Who will sell the drugs? Non-profits? For-profits? Government agencies? Which drugs? To whom? To what ages? Who will determine appropriate dosage for dangerous drugs? Will addictive drugs be dispensed by medical faclities? What if the users don’t want detox? What if they just want to stay high on their drug(s) of choice? If they’re addicted and penniless, will the government subsidize the cost of the drugs? For how long? Will the drug users pocket the drugs and take them to use elsewhere, or must they ingest or inject them in the facility? Will there be a penalty for re-selling the drugs? Will there be periodic, mandatory counseling and evaluations to encourage people to kick addictive or dangerous drugs? How often? How much? By whom? With what credentials?

  6. Kutty Vish says:

    Dan has given us supreme court rulings and Pncho has some good points. ACLU has this to say

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2008/10/aclu-assails-10/

    Several civil rights had slowly eroded over the years. Most people are indifferent or ok with it while others take action/fight. It is Washington that has changed and will change the constitution if need be.

  7. Victoria says:

    Their dogs are in charge of being mere suspicious and land you on a thorough check–has happened to me– then everybody gathers around you looking extremely suspicious freaking one out and creating a paranoid state that makes one suspicious of everyone else.
    Like Lisa, I have mixed feelings too, so I focus on the sad issue of human trafficking and hope that agents are constantly scanning for any hints during that opportunity presented as someone drives to their spot (and not in the middle of nowhere) and during that very short time as they ask a simple redundant question.

  8. Tom says:

    As city inhabitants along the US/Mexico borderwe must remember that we have these internal checkpoints because we want an easier method of crossing that border. The US and Mexican governments allow its citizens to cross the border and remian in a “commercial zone” with a very limited documentation of nationality. When a Mexican , or other non-US citizen leaves the commercial zone in the US, they are required to obtain a visa. The checkpoints are in place to assure that compliance is being met.

    If you want to do away with those internal checkpoints and have a person entering the US, even just to shop or visit people in Laredo, have to posess a visa, well so be it. I think the vast majority of border residents would want to keep the current process using border crossing cards. Laredo retail would dry up, as would jobs.

    I do however hate the fact that the brand new inspection facility very rarely has multiple lanes open. It is slow.

    Anyway, CBP keep up the “mostly” good work.

  9. Jim Lacey says:

    The problem is what happens if everyone refuses to identify himself or herself.
    And the answer is, eventually anyway, a Bin Laden or similar is able to drive through
    any checkpoint anywhere in the country or enter through any airport or cruise ship
    and continue on his or her way to the Twin Towers to leave off the bomb.

    There’s a wonderful popular phrase, “Freedom isn’t free.” We have to understand
    that the Constitution as written — over 200 years ago — could hardly have foreseen
    an airplane flying into the Twin Tower. With all due respect, we have to appreciate
    changing times and understand that they require modifications to law or at least
    to our thinking and actions.

    Yes, it’s our right to drive down the public highway and yes it’s our right to resist
    producing an ID but it is not our right to toss security and the general well-being
    of the public out the window just because a 200+ year old document says we can.
    That document couldn’t have foreseen today. We have to be willing to cooperate
    and we have to draw real lines between those things which truly are an infringement
    of our civil liberties and those modifications to law that are reasonable and fair.

    I believe we are still the only country in the world that doesn’t require citizens to
    carry an ID. I might be wrong about that, but the point is we aren’t being made to
    carry, or produce when asked for at a checkpoint, any ID. We’re just being asked
    if we are a citizen.

    Put the shoe on the other foot — in this case, his shoe on your foot — and tell us
    what you think is a solution to providing top security while at the same time not
    infringing on civil rights.

    What is your solution? We know and understand and share to at least some
    degree your aggravation and frustration over these checkpoints, so let’s not
    open a debate over our anger (because we all share it to some degree), let’s
    open a debate on how we keep Bin Laden from driving through the checkpoint
    and doing what you just did, i.e., refusing to show his ID and forcing the
    supervisor, as you did, to let him drive on over the Twin Towers and drop off
    his bomb.

    I don’t say that our civil liberties aren’t being infringed upon. They are. Let’s
    talk about one situation at a time — this one — and get the community to suggest
    HOW we can provide security while not infringing on civil liberties. Let’s make a
    difference. Let’s find merit in compromise and open, intelligent exchanges, without
    the anger and the vitriol.

    Thanks for your ear, I was impressed with how you handled yourself and how
    you never lost focus or control of the situation. =)

  10. Big O says:

    Apparently you have a lot of time on your hands.

  11. Thanks for sharing. I can’t say many would put themselves in this guy’s position because it’s both intimidating and scary…especially since authorities have a way of “white washing” the facts…but I respect this individual for taking a stand and filming it for us. I don’t think we would take a stand like this…our resources are limited. But I’m glad that someone is doing it, if for no other reason, than just to demonstrate to them that their true suspicious is skin color. I hope it makes them think twice.

    I agree with others writing that our borders need to be protected, but again…from who? Are we really protecting them when we detain brown folks, but let white Anglos slip right though? Timothy wasn’t brown and maybe that’s why he wasn’t detained. In fact, most of the “bombers” here in the U.S. have been white. I wonder how that coincidence came to be? Hmmm…

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