The controversy that surrounds checkpoint stories occurring in inland areas —- namely the U.S./Mexico border, centers around a rapidly growing viral movement in which drivers are videotaping their heated altercations with border patrol officials on. Namely, these altercations become heated because the drivers in the videos are on the receiving end of racial profiling.
The videos can be found on Youtube with many sharing their testimonies. They usually begin and end the same way: A car is stopped and the first question that is asked is if the driver is a U.S. citizen. The driver declines to answer (which they can) and asks if they can go on their way. This is where things descend into an argument with the agent typically threatening to send the car into secondary (where it must be searched).
This is also where the risk of corruption and an abuse of power comes in. Some border patrol agents have been taking advantage of their position by using it as a way to get away with searching vehicles they deem “racially appropriate,” so to speak.
ABC News investigated the stories in an article titled “Border Patrol Confrontations Go Viral.”
According to a 1976 Supreme Court decision, checkpoints are allowed to exist up to 100 miles from the border. But drivers who have become a part of the aforementioned movement on Youtube hope attention will spread awareness about the injustices: “ … If they are not crossing a border, they should be able to freely travel within their own country without being questioned by federal agents. Still, others say the random stops “encourage racial profiling and disproportionately target individuals who are Latino.”
Most of the frustration also stems from the “rapid growth of the U.S. Border Patrol and the proliferation of inland checkpoints.” The agency itself has garnered controversy as it’s ” … quintupled in size since the mid-’80s, from 4,000 agents to 20,000 agents” despite “a recent spike in corruption and abuse charges.”
ABC states that the Customs and Border Protection declined to comment over the phone but issued a statement:
” … Immigration checkpoints do not give Border Patrol Agents carte blanche to automatically search persons and their vehicles. … The agents must develop articulable probable cause to conduct a lawful search. Probable cause can be developed from agent observations, records checks, non-intrusive canine sniffs, and other established means. Motorists may also consent to a search, but are not required to do so.”
But one of the reasons this sensation has gone viral is because they are rooted in assumptions and generalizing, mainly racial profiling. It feels like the altercations are happening because the agent approaches the driver already assuming they are guilty of something.
Let’s remember again that only the border patrol are allowed the privilege of holding this kind of entitlement in their hands. No courts are overseeing them. This becomes an example of unchecked power, where in they are given the unrestrained right to go through your things no matter if their reasoning is flawed.
Police must have probable cause before they can search you. Imagine if they’d been given this kind of power? They would be able to go through your home, all without a warrant.
There is no oversight over the border patrol. And this power is a direct violation of the rights given to us through the constitutional right of Search and Seizure in the Fourth Amendment.