The Constitution Free Zone
I've written about this before, but it remains very much applicable given recent events. The majority of people living in the United States live within 100 miles of a border, which is an area that has been dubbed the Constitution Free Zone. The zone is a place where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) claims to maintain "extra-Constitutional" powers to stop individuals they deem to be in violation of U.S. immigration law. The Constitution Free Zone impacts approximately two-thirds of the entire population of the United States, citizen and immigrant alike, which is a population into the hundreds of millions.
If you are stopped by Border Patrol, it is imperative that you know your rights.
Via the ACLU:
- The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects Americans from random and arbitrary stops and searches.
- According to the government, however, these basic constitutional principles do not apply fully at our borders. For example, at border crossings (also called "ports of entry"), federal authorities do not need a warrant or even suspicion of wrongdoing to justify conducting what courts have called a "routine search," such as searching luggage or a vehicle.
- Even in places far removed from the border, deep into the interior of the country, immigration officials enjoy broad—though not limitless—powers. Specifically, federal regulations give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authority to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. "external boundary."
- In this 100-mile zone, Border Patrol agents have certain extra-Constitutional powers. For instance, Border Patrol can operate immigration checkpoints.
- Border Patrol, nevertheless, cannot pull anyone over without "reasonable suspicion" of an immigration violation or crime (reasonable suspicion is more than just a "hunch"). Similarly, Border Patrol cannot search vehicles in the 100-mile zone without a warrant or "probable cause" (a reasonable belief, based on the circumstances, that an immigration violation or crime has likely occurred).
- In practice, Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people. These problems are compounded by inadequate training for Border Patrol agents, a lack of oversight by CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the consistent failure of CBP to hold agents accountable for abuse. Thus, although the 100-mile border zone is not literally "Constitution free," the U.S. government frequently acts like it is.
Click here to read the ACLU's Factsheet.