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Is the Border Patrol Overstepping its Bounds by Making Arrests Miles Away from the Border?

stop-sign-1334670-m.jpgThe U.S. Border Patrol is tasked with performing duties in line with what its name suggests: safeguarding the nation’s borders by preventing terrorists, weapons, and other national security threats from entering the United States. However, recent allegations claim that the Border Patrol (BP) is no longer confining its enforcement and prevention efforts to within its geographic area of authority. Instead, the agency has decided to pursue its duties inside the U.S. and at times, more than 150 miles away from the country’s border.

One Example of Many: The Case of Jaime Zaldana

Jaime Zaldana is one of the recent cases wherein the BP operated 150 miles away from the country’s actual border in order to apprehend Mr. Zaldana and his two co-workers. According to the BP agents’ reports, the agents observed that Mr. Zaldana and his co-workers did not make eye contact with the agents when they drove past them. This failure to acknowledge the agents provided enough suspicion, according to the agents, to pull over Mr. Zaldana and examine his immigration status.

Eventually the U.S. deported Mr. Zaldana, who was an undocumented foreign national. However, the deportation proceedings were not concluded until after the federal government paid $25,000 to settle Mr. Zaldana’s claims that the only reason the BP agents stopped him was on account of his ethnicity and race.

BP’s Growing Record of In-Land Arrests

Unfortunately, Mr. Zaldana’s case is far from unique. According to Freedom of Information Act data, during the period from 2005 to 2013, BP agents reportedly stopped more than 40,000 individuals at inland locations, some of which are situated more than 350 miles away from Mexico.

When criticized about the possibility of overstepping their geographic bounds, BP agents contend that there is no exact mile line that may act as a limitation on their enforcement and prevention efforts. However, a number of courts have somewhat disagreed and stated that the farther the agents apprehend motorists away from the border, the stronger the justification the agents must have in order to do so.

Is Race Playing a Major Role in BP Stops?

Outspoken critics of the BP allege that the agents are pulling over motorists based solely on their racial or ethnic appearances, which have resulted in the violation of the constitutional rights of American citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders). The exact number of citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been adversely affected by the BP’s actions is impossible to find because the BP states that it does not track that sort of data.

Additionally, trying to find other types of BP data is increasingly difficult, and the American Civil Liberties Union offices in both Arizona and Washington have tried suing the agency to obtain more information about its inland stops. At present, these suits have been unsuccessful.

The Rant

The trends at the BP are alarming to say the least. With the midterm elections under way this week, there is a chance for the nation to change how agencies operate. Hopefully the newly elected representatives and senators will make immigration reform a priority heading into 2015. Continue to check with our blog for the most up to date immigration news.

Additional Blog Posts

What Immigrants Need to Know About the Government Shutdown, ImmigRantings, October 10, 2013
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012