May 29, 2015—On Wednesday, an estimated 75 protesters brought signs, bullhorns, and passion to the Arivaca, Arizona border patrol checkpoint. The media attention they garnered brought the checkpoint to the attention of many more.
There are seven checkpoints in Arizona, and other smaller rallies were held in six total. Arivaca is the smallest, but its crowd was the largest.
“BP, listen up! Arivaca’s had enough!” they chanted at 50 agents of the Border Patrol, a division of the Department of Homeland Security.
At one point, the crowd had to be moved to make way for three cars to pass through the checkpoint. Operations were stalled for just under a minute. No arrests were made, though the Border Patrol were visibly prepared with crowd control weapons.
Residents attending the demonstration organized by People Helping People in the Border Zone (PHP) shared what it’s like to have their community militarized.
“It seems like a war zone all the time,” a resident of more than three decades told the Arizona Republic. “I used to wander all over the place with my dog. A lot of us were here before the checkpoint. That’s what we live here for, the peace and quiet.” PHP said 60 percent of businesses in Amado and Arivaca signed a letter critical of the border patrol checkpoint.
Another Arivaca resident’s anecdote shared with the Arizona Republic is kind of amazing. Kristen Randall said she gets stopped at the checkpoint at least five times a week because of work. She’d be neutral on the issue except for what happened to her and her property in December 2009. She made Christmas cards for the agents, only to have a Border Patrol dog “alert” to her car. It was taken off the road to a secondary screening. “They tore the car apart,” she said, finding her Christmas presents she had just purchased unwrapped and opened in the trunk.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Bisbee, AZ residents protested their checkpoint over their environmental concerns regarding the border fence. Also a Native American tribe, Thono O’odham Nation, claimed the fence was on their land. Protesters at the checkpoint near Tucson, AZ wanted the agents to know they hadn’t forgotten a 16-year-old Mexican boy shot dead there in October 2012.
Back in Arivaca, a big banner reading “Rep. Grijalva: When Is Our Hearing?” called out the near-year-old promise of Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-D) to hold a hearing on the checkpoints with the communities.
“It was inspiring to have Grijalva’s support,” an Arivaca resident told Pan Am Post, “now we need him to keep his word and give us our hearing.”
In this video taken at the Arivaca border patrol checkpoint in 2014, you get a glimpse of what it means to be in a “Constitution-Free Zone.” A woman is stopped, asked several questions, and when she isn’t immediately submissive, the agents escalate the situation needlessly. At about two minutes in, a supervisor orders she exit her vehicle and nearly lets it slip that he’s going to search her car, but then says he will “conduct an investigation.” She lets him know she’s onto him, reminding him he needs a dog to “alert” before he conducts a search.
Are border checkpoints a violation of the 4th Amendment? Share your opinion in the comments.
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