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“U.S. citizens here?” - “U.S. citizens.”
July 22, 2014 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Arizona’s Checkpoint Rebellion
Liberals, libertarians, retirees, and activists protest against immigration patrols far from the border.

Previously:
DHS Checkpoint Refusals
Am I being detained? Am I free to go?
posted by davidstandaford (40 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are a few other people like Bressi across the southwest: white, middle-aged men who keep steady jobs, are American citizens, and feel secure enough to routinely take a stand against checkpoints.

Good for them. I wrote a comment a week or two ago about how differently I approach these checkpoints alone compared to with my partner. The checkpoints are disgusting and getting rid of them couldn't be soon enough.

I've given small amounts of pushback when I'm alone but I'd want to have cameras running if I was going to be less cooperative. Even with me, white and native born, they've been less than 100 percent professional and the last thing I'd want is to end up with it being my word against theirs.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:10 AM on July 22 [5 favorites]


There are a few other people like Bressi across the southwest: white, middle-aged men who keep steady jobs, are American citizens, and feel secure enough to routinely take a stand against checkpoints.
And good on them for actually believing in civil liberties enough to engage in even low-stakes activism against a brazen police-state power grab. It's not clear to me from the article what Bressi's politics are, but still: This issue really ought to be a political wedge, splitting rural white conservative civil libertarians from rural white conservative racists. Or at least it could be, in the presence of a political movement genuinely opposed to the expansion of invasive domestic policing.
posted by RogerB at 11:19 AM on July 22 [8 favorites]


But agents never stop people because they look as if they could have been born in Mexico or another part of Latin America, says Customs and Border Protection’s Shevannah Wray.

“That would be racism,” she says.


I must admit I cackled wildly aloud at this wide-eyed innocent disingenuous bullshit.
posted by elizardbits at 11:19 AM on July 22 [25 favorites]


When asked at a checkpoint if you're an American, simply say yes. Even if you're Mexican. Mexico is part of North America, after all.
posted by parliboy at 11:27 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]


Last week on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me Bobcat Goldthwait said he would be in favor of these if all the cops had to be Native Americans. He wanted them to pull over John McCain and ask his family how long they had been in the country.
posted by poe at 11:33 AM on July 22 [44 favorites]


"It is unclear how truly effective the interior checkpoints or throngs of Border Patrol agents are at thwarting illegal activity."

"Crossing an interior immigration checkpoint in Arizona is a puzzling experience. A curious visitor from a peaceful foreign country driving around the state who happened upon a checkpoint for the first time might well wonder, on the basis of the cursory questions and inspections, why, exactly, the checkpoints are present. Visitors from countries wracked by military rule, coups, or civil wars, where checkpoints are routine instruments of control—and sometimes sites of violence and extortion—might feel more at home."

It seems to me that the intent is precisely population control. Make it super inconvenient for US citizens to go near the Mexican border so that they stay away, and you have yourself a 100-mile no man's land/exclusion area. I expect that increasingly the presumption will be that anyone caught in that area without some sort of official pre-cleared travel plan for accepted business purposes will be presumed to be engaging in some form of suspicious or criminal activity. Makes for easy policing via shoot first, ask questions later policies. Has the globalised business-friendly side effect of maintaining highly profitable labor exploitation as well as market fragmentation practices.

Absolutely, totally unethical.
posted by eviemath at 11:34 AM on July 22 [11 favorites]


Oh lord yes.

Ugh now I feel like I have a responsibility to move to Arizona and cause trouble.
posted by elizardbits at 11:35 AM on July 22 [8 favorites]


I had to go through checkpoints at 3 places in the interstate on my recent trip to AZ via NM. Twice I was simply asked if I were a US citizen, if I had any passengers and let go. The third time I was exhausted and they looked in my trunk.
posted by brujita at 11:35 AM on July 22


her younger children and husband, who are American citizens,

How can you not be permitted to live in the country your spouse is a citizen of? That's abhorrent. (I realise my country, the UK does this too, and I hate it here)
posted by ambrosen at 11:38 AM on July 22


I experienced this on I-25 north of Las Cruces, in New Mexico. I didn't know it was coming. Just a traffic jam, and then a toll booth, wait, no... just guys with machine guns. One question "is everyone in the vehicle a US citizen?" and we were off again. We decided if it happened again we would think about not answering, but there's just the one time as you drive north.
posted by Phredward at 11:38 AM on July 22


Not sure what kind of check points these are since no one get into ttrouble if he or she says they are Americans (or citizens)...we do not have as yet passports to carry or id to identify our citizenship.

The paradox is that the very people who would challenge one to prove citizenship tend usually to be the same type of folks who are fully against carrying identification papers because that infringes on personal liberties.
posted by Postroad at 11:43 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]


“He asked me, ‘Where are you going? Where are you taking her?’ All I could think about was my mother. It was an awful intrusion.”

Wray attends anti-checkpoint meetings regularly, but Yolanda never does.

“Yolanda has an attitude like, ‘If you behave well, then they will treat you well,’ ” Wray says from the car. “She and my granddaughter have become accustomed to it. That is a bad idea.”


Right on, Carlota Wray.
posted by vacapinta at 11:45 AM on July 22 [5 favorites]


I went through one of these and it definitely freaked me out. What's worse is knowing that they're looking for signs of nervousness. I have a Catholic school induced guilty conscience! I'm always nervous in the face of authority figures!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 11:51 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]


A couple of years ago a grad student in my department was the victim of a home invasion on christmas day. They took his passport (he was from China) and his car with everything they could fit in it. His car turned up 2 days later in the desert near the border. He wanted to go get it right away but we had to advise him not to because he had no way to get through the 3 checkpoints between Tucson amd Douglass without spending a day in detention while they checked him out.
posted by nestor_makhno at 11:58 AM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Border Patrol Agent Pulls Gun on Boy Scout after Detaining them for Photography
posted by cjorgensen at 12:04 PM on July 22 [3 favorites]


If you think these are incongruous in Arizona, try encountering one on the Olympic Peninsula.

We live in a despicable country.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:22 PM on July 22 [4 favorites]


And yet where are these border checkpoint assholes when capital is entering or leaving the US?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:26 PM on July 22 [15 favorites]


As a big, bearded white guy with some privilege to spare, I make a point of saying "Hola!" when I roll down the window. It ain't much, sort of like holding up your middle fingers (which of course I also do) in the airport body scanner (I hear it's incredibly common). It's more a way of generating some instant bravado so you avoid that feeling of self-loathing for doing nothing and just complying.

Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush had better watch their backs. The liberal/libertarian convergence is gathering steam. Just yesterday I found myself conceding a few inches on the subject of Rand Paul's interestingness in a conversation with a (far) right wing relative.

On the other hand Deval Patrick just impressed the fuck out of me on the current "border crisis."
posted by spitbull at 12:32 PM on July 22 [4 favorites]


I got stopped at one just outside of Yuma while moving cross country a few years ago. Their dog smelled the dogs in our van and they decided to do a search. Over 100 degrees and we were corralled to a waiting area while our dogs were put in a cage out in the sun. The agent spotting a knife clipped to my pocket was enough to lead to a thorough pat down while their dog sniffed through our van filled with everything we owned at the time. It wasn't even a moving van, it was a rented Town and Country.

Fortunately we weren't detained, but when we moved back to California a year later I planned a route that didn't go through Arizona and have boycotted that shithole in every possible respect since then. If a flight I want so much as makes a connection at Sky Harbor I buy a more expensive ticket.

Also, I'm white, but tattooed, which apparently is enough to make the DHS think I'm shady, so apparently it's not just Mexicans they're after. It's anyone who doesn't fit their definition of "normal."
posted by mikesch at 12:32 PM on July 22 [3 favorites]


I have a feeling the Libertarians only care so long as it affects them 100 miles away from the border, but could give two shits about people dealing with the same thing AT the border.

Now - to be fair - at least back in 96 when I considered myself a Libertarian, the platform supported more open borders, IIRC. With the Tea Party running things these days, it seems we probably have a more regressive libertarian policy these days towards the border.

And while I can, on the one hand, appreciate taking a stand, so often I despise clowns like these, because it seems to me that it's just a feel good gesture. Sure, one that might have a solid point to make, but what does it actually *CHANGE*?

So long as you insist on individualistic stand-uppance and not collective action to resist efforts, and in a way that's not just a few people here and there, but a real devastating tidal wave of resistance, well... you're not going to achieve much, frankly, but feel like a tough 20-something year old dude with a cellcam in their car telling it like it is to the man.
posted by symbioid at 12:35 PM on July 22


There are a few other people like Bressi across the southwest: white, middle-aged men who keep steady jobs, are American citizens, and feel secure enough to routinely take a stand against checkpoints.

People have already commented on this, but three cheers for Bressi. Protesting these stupid checkpoints is the best use of white male privilege I've seen all day.
posted by medusa at 12:49 PM on July 22 [7 favorites]


The Border Patrol has developed a protocol for handling motorists like Bressi. An agent will signal to a colleague and call out something like, “Hey guys, we are going to have an uncooperative motorist.” Backup agents are always nearby and usually help diffuse the situation.

“It is not worth it to have the confrontation. We are seeing a lot more of these folks than we used to,” says the Interstate 19 checkpoint’s chief agent. . . .

Bressi posts videos of his checkpoint drive-throughs on his YouTube channel, CheckpointUSA.
Awesome. I hate the awfulness of illegal immigration, but I hate intrusions on American civil liberties even more. How does Bressi have legal fees, though? This has public interest lawyer written all over it.
posted by resurrexit at 1:00 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


When asked at a checkpoint if you're an American, simply say yes. Even if you're Mexican. Mexico is part of North America, after all.

I cannot overemphasize how completely fucking bad this idea is. Lying to a federal officer of any kind is up to five years in the federal pen and absolutely trivial to prove even if you're just being a technically correct smartass. If they can't get you on anything, if you lied to a federal officer in the course of their duties they'll pull you up on it and give you up to five years. This is how Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich both got nailed to the wall. DO NOT LIE TO FEDERAL OFFICERS EVER. THEY WILL MAKE SURE IT WILL RUIN YOUR DAY. Either shut your mouth and call a lawyer to answer every question on your behalf or tell the truth.
posted by Talez at 1:03 PM on July 22 [11 favorites]


Yeah, using a questioning by federal officers as a platform for a LULzy point about the word "American" is.... not an optimal thing to do. Kind of like making a bomb joke at an airport checkpoint.
posted by Justinian at 1:20 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


It's not just in Arizona. I used to commute on that ferry and let me tell you people were fuming. Not sure what's going on back there these days.
posted by Poldo at 1:20 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


When asked at a checkpoint if you're an American, simply say yes. Even if you're Mexican. Mexico is part of North America, after all.

Actually, I don't think they ask whether you're American, but whether you're a US citizen.
posted by sour cream at 1:40 PM on July 22 [4 favorites]


I was grilled like crazy coming off the Victoria BC ferry because the Canadian official"didn't think it looked right" for women to travel by themselves.
posted by brujita at 2:31 PM on July 22


Talez: "I cannot overemphasize how completely fucking bad this idea is. Lying to a federal officer of any kind is up to five years in the federal pen and absolutely trivial to prove even if you're just being a technically correct smartass."

What bugs the absolute shit out of me is that there are recorded incidents of non-federal "Border Patriot" guys doing these searches. If it's a DHS person with a DHS vest and a DHS badge, I'm a little bit more inclined to submit to an unconstitutional search and questioning than I am to Bubba with a yellow badge on his camos.

Either way, this shit feels like what I imagine the Red Scare must have felt like, except with even more futility.
posted by Sphinx at 2:33 PM on July 22


> Ugh now I feel like I have a responsibility to move to Arizona and cause trouble.

Oh, please do! We're working towards building a critical mass of non-idiots, but there's still a ways to go.

I like many things about living here (much to my surprise), but this sort of bullshit really needs to stop.
posted by Superplin at 2:38 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


What bugs the absolute shit out of me is that there are recorded incidents of non-federal "Border Patriot" guys doing these searches. If it's a DHS person with a DHS vest and a DHS badge, I'm a little bit more inclined to submit to an unconstitutional search and questioning than I am to Bubba with a yellow badge on his camos.

If it's some private "Border Patriot" group then don't even lie. Feel free to tell them to go fuck themselves.
posted by Talez at 2:43 PM on July 22


My friend Quin has this amusing bit of video on his blog documenting one man's novel approach to avoiding the ridiculous questions at a checkpoint.
posted by uberchet at 5:14 PM on July 22 [11 favorites]


My grandmother lives in Arizona and when they passed the "show your papers" law or the "traveling while brown" law I wrote the governor a letter asking what documents I needed to carry with me to prove I was a citizen (since she'd emphatically said all individuals stopped would be treated the same). I said I wanted to avoid deportation back to my country of origin, since I don't even speak Norwegian. She didn't reply.

I'm mostly serious. When my grandmother passes away I have no intention of entering that state for the funeral even if there's a large inheritance. This is mostly because of the state and partly because I have few fond memories of grandma.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:22 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


Fortunately we weren't detained...

The entire first paragraph of your comment was you being detained, unfortunately.
posted by hellphish at 5:39 PM on July 22 [4 favorites]


What bugs the absolute shit out of me is that there are recorded incidents of non-federal "Border Patriot" guys doing these searches. If it's a DHS person with a DHS vest and a DHS badge, I'm a little bit more inclined to submit to an unconstitutional search and questioning than I am to Bubba with a yellow badge on his camos.

Yea, are those guys even federal officers? What are the consequences for sassing or lying to them? can they face real charges, unlike an actual officer if they break the law/are abusive to you?

I was under the impression that a lot of these guys were essentially private security, and that there were a few federal agents around backing them up.

Are they deputized or something? because if they're just stupid wanker security guards i'd love to harass them if i ever get the chance.
posted by emptythought at 6:04 PM on July 22


I made the mistake of asking a question with a question, without thought, at a US border going into Canada. That was a really bad idea. (Question was: Where were you born? I asked why they were asking that question.) As soon as the question was out, my passenger cringed and I realized it was a Very Bad Idea.

We only have sobriety checkpoints here in my part of NY, and so far I have managed not to snap: "Do I LOOK drunk?"
posted by Meep! Eek! at 7:32 PM on July 22


A couple of years ago I invited a friend and his family to go rock-hounding in East county San Diego. He's a Marine Corps vet and he and his family are Latino...he's actually from Honduras and was adopted as a child so his last name is very WHITE like Stanley. He also looks very ethnic like Olmec or something similar.

As soon as we left the abandoned mine we were visiting, he was pulled over by Border Patrol and he was in the process of being detained when I rolled up. He was very close to tears and later told me that they were giving him shit about his last name.

I parked pretty far away because they looked aggressive, (hands on holsters and in the stance). I walked up slowly while holding up my DOD ID card. As I was walking I said, "This is my employee, we both work for the DOD, what is the problem here?"

They never said a word. Didn't look at my ID card. They threw my friends papers and ID into his lap and walked back to their SUV and drove off.

My friend is still bugged by this and won't go camping with me out there because of the 'migra check point on the I-8.

The old Cheech and Chong joke about calling La Migra to get a ride back to TJ after a wedding was pretty funny at the time. What's happening now is a nightmare.
posted by snsranch at 7:40 PM on July 22 [9 favorites]


sour cream: "whether you're a US citizen."

Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.
posted by meehawl at 8:42 PM on July 22


Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.

So when they ask you if you're a US citizen, you're gonna reply "Mexico or America?"
Good luck with that!

E - U - M --- E - U - M!!!!

Nah, just doesn't have the same ring...
posted by sour cream at 2:33 AM on July 23


sour cream: "Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.

So when they ask you if you're a US citizen, you're gonna reply "Mexico or America?"
Good luck with that!

E - U - M --- E - U - M!!!!

Nah, just doesn't have the same ring...
"

It's because you're not saying it in Spanish: EEUU! EEUU!
posted by chavenet at 4:44 AM on July 23


Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush had better watch their backs. The liberal/libertarian convergence is gathering steam. Just yesterday I found myself conceding a few inches on the subject of Rand Paul's interestingness in a conversation with a (far) right wing relative.

Charlie Pierce: The Five Minute Rule Is Hard But It Is Fair
[T]he Five Minute Rule states that any member of the Paul family will make sense on any political issue for exactly five minutes. Precisely at the 5:00:01 mark, however, he will say something so far off the rails that you will find yourself looking at him as though he has sprouted a reptilian head out of his sternum. This may include Crazy Uncle Liberty (!)'s discussion of economic problems that suddenly veers into goldbuggery, or Aqua Buddha's concern over government overreach that gets him crossways with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Or, it seems, it also applies to positions once held that become inconvenient when one is trying to sell oneself as a possible president of the United States. The Five Minute Rule appears to have an application in the area of political cowardice, too.

For example, it seems that Aqua Buddha was back in Iowa the other day, chowing down at lunch with Congressman Steve King (R-Hallucinogen). At one point during the meal, a couple of kids who would be covered by the DREAM act came over to chat. Steve King got up and was pleasantly condescending to them. (Perhaps their calves were in order. Who knows?) Aqua Buddha, on the other hand, stuffs what's left of his burger down his gullet and -- 4:59:58, 4:59:49...-- flees the scene, lest someone photograph him shaking hands with inconvenient brown people, which he one day might have to explain to the hayshakers in Council Bluffs.

And then there's Israel, on which Aqua Buddha has done himself a Cirque du Soleil over the past couple of years.
Paul, who was in Omaha campaigning for Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse before a three-day tour of neighboring Iowa, may not like it when reporters bring up his proposal from three years ago to end all U.S. foreign aid - including to Israel. But that was in fact his position. In 2011, the newly elected Paul proposed a budget that would have cut $500 billion from the federal budget in part by cutting off foreign aid to all countries, including financial grants to Israel. The United States provides about $3 billion to Israel annually, and last week the Senate approved $225 million to help support Israel's Iron Dome technology, which blocks rocket fire from Gaza. (Paul supported the measure.) Paul, in his first months in office, however, defended phasing out aid by saying that the U.S. could no longer afford to give cash to other countries. "I'm not singling out Israel. I support Israel. I want to be known as a friend of Israel, but not with money you don't have," Paul said in 2011 during an interview with ABC News. "We can't just borrow from our kids' future and give it to countries, even if they are our friends."
Oh?

4:59:57, 4:59:58, 4:59:59...
Paul, a possible 2016 presidential contender whom some in the GOP regard as insufficiently pro-Israel, has recently changed his tune on foreign aid to the Jewish state. His budget proposals since 2001 have included aid to Israel.
(I'm assuming that "2001" is a typo since, back then, Aqua Buddha was still a self-regulating opthamologist.)
posted by zombieflanders at 7:26 AM on August 6


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