Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Newly Released FOIA Documents Shed Light on Border Patrol’s Seemingly Limitless Authority

When a Border Patrol agent is contemplating pulling someone over, they have a checklist of possible behaviors to look out for. They can determine “whether the vehicle or its load looks unusual in some way,” or “whether the passengers appeared dirty.” If those descriptions don’t apply, they can assess “whether the persons inside the vehicle avoid looking at the agent,” or conversely, “whether the persons inside the vehicle are paying undue attention to the agent’s presence.” And if those don’t apply, they can simply determine that the car is in an area nearby the border and pull it over on that basis alone. The Border Patrol’s authority doesn’t only apply to remote stretches of the border. Agents also deploy in cities, searching for people they believe to have illegally entered the country; board buses and ask passengers to prove they are in the country legally; and conscript civilians to assist them with law enforcement activities under threat of arrest. The documents include a copy of the agency’s 2012 Enforcement Law Course, which CBP has described in court filings as advice “on the legal authority of CBP’s law enforcement personnel and issues they would confront in investigations and prosecutions.” (CBP declined to comment on whether the ELC has been updated since 2012 and did not respond to further requests for comment.) In addition to the Enforcement Law Course is a series of PowerPoint presentations from November 2017 aimed at helping Border Patrol trainees digest the legalistic language of the ELC. While Customs and Border Protection claims that a 1953 Justice Department regulation extends its jurisdiction to within 100 air miles of the border (which covers nine of the country’s 10 largest cities and two-thirds of its population), the ELC also provides a legal framework for a 25-mile zone around the border where Border Patrol believes its agents are allowed to patrol private lands and question anyone they encounter (including within border-adjacent cities like New York, Miami, and San Diego). According to the ELC, Border Patrol agents are not allowed to enter private dwellings or infringe upon an individual’s “reasonable expectation of privacy,” when a citizen believes they’re not putting something in the public view...MORE 

 In researching issues related to federal lands and border security  I came across 8 U.S. Code § 1357 - Powers of immigration officers and employees. which contains the follwing;

...and within a distance of twenty-five miles from any such external boundary to have access to private lands, but not dwellings, for the purpose of patrolling the border.. 

So they don't just "believe'" they have they authority, without warrant, to enter your private property within 25 miles of the border, Congress has granted them that authority by statute. They don't have the same authority to access federal land. Why is that?

The main question I'm interested in is where exactly is the border? Is it at the border itself, or has it been redefined to be a 25 mile zone, or 100 air mile zone, and how are my rights as an American citizen living within those zones affected?   

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