Today’s issue of FFF Email Update links to an article about a rancher from my hometown of Laredo, Texas, who is complaining about abuses at the hands of the U.S. Border Patrol.
I know what that Laredo rancher is talking about because I experienced the same sort of Border Patrol abuse that he has experienced.
I grew up on a farm that was located on the banks of the Rio Grande. When I was a kid, we would often drive down to the river to check on our irrigation pump. We could easily see Mexico across the river.
Our property was fenced and we had a gate at the entrance of our property. We were required to provide the Border Patrol with a key to the lock. The reason? Because the Border Patrol had the legal authority to trespass onto our property whenever it wanted. No warrant. No probable cause. Just the unfettered authority to come onto our land to go down to the river bank. Thus, if we failed to provide them with a key, they would simply shoot the lock off the gate and enter onto our property.
We hired illegal immigrants on our farm. They were the hardest working people I have ever seen. They would help us plant and harvest our crops, fix our equipment, water our fruit trees, and feed our livestock, even in the hot summer months. Americans receiving welfare checks at the unemployment office wouldn’t last more than two days. The illegal immigrants were also our friends, playing football with my brothers and me after work hours or regaling us with stories about Mexico.
But then the Border Patrol would show up. Sometimes, there would be sufficient time to hide. But other times, they would bust our workers, arrest them, handcuff them, and deport them to Mexico, with the threat that next time they’d be facing serious penitentiary time. Thus, oftentimes we would never see them again and would have to hire new ones.
One Friday afternoon, when I was about 27 years old I was traveling east on my way to spend a weekend at a beach town named Port Aransas. I was traveling by myself but was meeting friends there. I was minding my own business when a Border Patrol car came up behind me and turned on its lights.
I pulled over, and the agent asked me to get out of the car and open my trunk. I politely declined. I asked him to explain under what authority he had stopped me. He said under the Border Patrol’s authority to control the borders. I responded, “But you’re not operating from a fixed checkpoint. As a roving Border Patrol agent, you have no right to arbitrarily stop me and search my vehicle.”
He responded, “Aren’t you familiar with the drug problem existing here on the border?”
I responded, “Well, you’ve sort of compromised your position with that remark because you don’t have authority to stop me to look for drugs, do you? Isn’t your authority limited to looking for illegal aliens?”
He quickly responded, “Well, the reason I stopped you was to look for illegal aliens but if I happen to find drugs, I can charge you with a drug offense. Now, open up your trunk.”
I again politely declined, pointing out that he had neither probable cause nor a reasonable suspicion that I was committing a crime.
He said, “Here’s your choice: You can either open your trunk or you can come back with me to Border Patrol headquarters in Laredo where we will search your vehicle there.”
Since returning to Laredo would seriously delay my arrival at the beach, I finally relented and opened the trunk. I’m sure the guy fully expected to find an illegal alien jumping out or a big bail of marijuana to charge me with. After rummaging through my trunk, he appeared a bit disjointed at not finding anything. He let me go on my way.
One of my best friends in high school later told me that his father, who was the head of the local Border Patrol office, told him that I was the talk of the local Border Patrol office that day.
This is the type of Border Patrol abuse that people on the border have undergone on a regular basis for decades. It’s just part of living in what people on the border call America’s Constitution-free zone.