By Joe Wright
As the immigration debate continues to rage in America, the application of the Constitution-Free Zone that extends 100 miles inland around the borders of the U.S. is creating a quandary for private companies forced to comply with a federal mandate.
Greyhound Lines, Inc. is one of America’s longest-running transportation companies at 104 years and now finds itself at the center of a growing number of reports about random searches and even detentions that are occurring along its line from Florida to Texas to Seattle. All told, its compliance with border patrol puts an estimated 18 million passengers per year at risk across 3,800 destinations.
According to a company spokesperson, as reported by MySanAntonio.com, Greyhound is not pleased with the position they have been put in, but so far has not taken a definitive stand against the government by requiring probable cause to enter its private property and harass its customers:
A spokesperson, Lanesha Gipson, said the company doesn’t “support or coordinate these searches, nor are we happy about them.” Gipson acknowledged that searches negatively affect customers. She said Greyhound also worried about the risk it puts drivers in, too.
“We have started conversations with the Border Patrol to determine if there is anything that can be done to balance the enforcement of federal law with the dignity and privacy of our valued customers,” Gipson said.
Gipson cited a series of laws with which she said Greyhound must comply when it comes to immigration checks on buses. They include the statutory provision saying that any immigration officer has the power to board buses and search for undocumented riders without a warrant “within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States” to prevent unlawful entry.
Perhaps even more troubling than the constitutional violations taking place by gun-toting border agents demanding papers from Greyhound riders are the accounts of fully legal individuals being carted away and detained, sometimes with separation from family members including children.
As I highlighted just yesterday, New York has joined Maine in also becoming a central hub of border searches that extend far inland and away from traditional immigration locations. The new reports from Florida, Texas and Seattle indicate either the increased spotlight that immigration is receiving or an accelerating trend of dragnet fishing expedition sweeps that are occurring around the nation.
As you can see in the map and video below, the Constitution-Free Zone includes every major city in the U.S., putting 2/3 of the population under de facto federal rule that severely compromises the rights most people believe they entitled to as legal citizens or residents of the United States.
As also noted above, the definition of “border patrol” no longer means dealing strictly with human agents. The deployment of drones, biometrics, DNA collection, electronics searches and even social media checks are spreading as well.
All Americans with a conscience should ask whether or not justice is being served or a “deterrent” is being provided by the removal of the core principles on which the nation was founded. The misapplication of immigration laws, faulty processing, failure to confirm proper documentation, random searches, arrests, family separations and detentions are more akin to a police state run amok than as the actions of any purported leader of the free world.
Fortunately, more attention is being paid to a problem that existed long before Donald Trump entered office. There is finally some encouraging news that Trump has encountered enough pushback to have signed an Executive Order that will stop the most egregious of the abuses taking place. In the meantime, people should continue examining their own core values and if those values are properly being represented.
For additional information, I have included below an overview by the ACLU of why the expansion of the Constitution-Free Zone is a threat to everyone. I’ve also included a video of what freedom looks like in Syracuse, New York as travelers of all types are interrogated for their citizenship status.
Outdated Legal Authority and Lack of Oversight
- The regulations establishing the 100-mile border zone were adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1953—without any public comments or debate. At the time, there were fewer than 1,100 Border Patrol agents nationwide; today, there are over 21,000.
- The Border Patrol often ignores this regulation and rejects any geographic limitation on agents’ authority. At least two federal circuit courts condone Border Patrol operations outside the 100-mile zone, federal regulations and Supreme Court precedent notwithstanding.
- Federal border agents are stopping, interrogating, and searching Americans on an everyday basis with absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing, and often in ways that our Constitution does not permit.
- For example, Border Patrol, according to news reports, operates approximately 170 interior checkpoints throughout the country (the actual number in operation at any given time is not publicly known). The ACLU believes that these checkpoints amount to dragnet, suspicionless stops that cannot be reconciled with Fourth Amendment protections. The Supreme Court has upheld the use of immigration checkpoints, but only insofar as the stops consist only of a brief and limited inquiry into residence status. Checkpoints cannot be primarily used for drug-search or general law enforcement efforts. In practice, however, Border Patrol agents often do not limit themselves to brief immigration inquiries and regularly conduct criminal investigations and illegal searches at checkpoints. The Border Patrol also frequently pulls over motorists in “roving patrol” stops, often without any suspicion that an immigration violation has occurred.
- The ACLU has documented numerous cases of abuse by Border Patrol and filed lawsuits to obtain more information about the agency’s practices. Given Border Patrol’s lack of transparency, and in the absence of any meaningful oversight, there is still much that we don’t know about the full extent and impact of these interior “border enforcement” operations.
Top image: Pixabay