Border Patrol agents routinely violate the constitutional rights of local residents in southern Arizona when they stop drivers at interior checkpoints on major highways and state routes near the border, according to an official complaint filed Wednesday. The complaint sent to Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties alleges that checkpoint agents conduct searches and detain people without justification, and use immigration enforcement as a pretext for “fishing expeditions” for potential criminal activity. The American Civil Liberties Union complaint details alleged violations against 15 U.S. citizens. It is the latest in a series of complaints about the checkpoints, where drivers passing through are ostensibly stopped and asked if they are U.S. citizens. A group of Arivaca residents recently presented a petition to the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector chief, Manuel Padilla Jr., asking him to remove one of the three checkpoints that surround the town.
Critics say federal agents often lack training for domestic police work
By Rob O’Dell and Bob Ortega
Part 1: Wall of silence
Part 2: Video of death, little reaction
Part 3 of 3
On the afternoon of March 15, 2011, at least five Border Patrol agents and another federal agent went with Sierra Vista police officers to conduct a “knock and talk” at a house in a neighborhood where police suspected a human-smuggling operation. After agents knocked on the front screen door, a white Chevy Suburban smashed out through the garage door, rammed into law-enforcement vehicles and drove at officers, according to Sierra Vista police reports. Federal agents fired 10 shots at the vehicle, and Sierra Vista officers fired once, with several bullets hitting the vehicle. The drivers escaped, and the Suburban was later found on a mountain in nearby Fort Huachuca. No one was hurt, but neighbors hid during the shooting, and a stray bullet struck a nearby Hyundai Santa Fe and was later found in the back seat, the police report said.
Agents use stun gun on handcuffed man
Part 2 of the Series Force at the Border
By Daniel González, Bob Ortega and Rob O’Dell
In May of 2010, eyewitnesses shot cellphone videos that show a 42-year-old undocumented immigrant handcuffed, face-down on the ground at the San Ysidro, Calif., port of entry and surrounded by U.S. border agents. One agent rips the man’s pants off and another shocks him with repeated blasts from a stun gun while the victim, Anastacio Hernandez Rojas, begs for someone to help him. Hernandez Rojas wails in agony as eyewitnesses yell at the agents, “Hey! He’s not resisting, guys. Why do you guys keep pressing on him?”
The videos are disturbingly similar to the video of Rodney King being kicked and beaten with batons by Los Angeles police officers in 1991, which remains seared in the public’s memory more than 20 years after it was shot by an eyewitness.
Republic investigation finds little public accountability in Southwest Border killings
Part 1 of the Series Force at the Border
By Bob Ortega and Rob O’Dell
A ghost is haunting Nogales. His face stares out from shop windows. It is plastered on handbills and painted on walls under the shadow of the U.S.-Mexican border fence here. Candles and doves are stenciled onto steel posts of the fence itself in his memory, each a promise not to forget the night, 14 months ago, when teenager Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez was shot 10 times in the back and head by one or more Border Patrol agents firing through the fence into Mexico. Similar specters haunt other border towns in Arizona, Texas and California, with the families of the dead charging that Border Patrol agents time and again have killed Mexicans and U.S. citizens with impunity.
Southern Arizona residents say Border Patrol agents are using excessive force, engaging in illegal searches and seizures, and stopping and detaining people without explanation while roving on patrols up to 60 miles north of the Arizona-Mexico border, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU says the scores of complaints it has received in Arizona are similar to ones raised in a lawsuit recently settled in Washington state. ACLU attorney James Duff Lyall, in Tucson, said his group is delivering an administrative complaint Thursday morning to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, to the DHS’ Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and to the Department of Justice. Two weeks ago, the Department of Justice settled an ACLU lawsuit over roving Border Patrol practices in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Customs and Border Protection didn’t admit any wrongdoing, but under the settlement, it agreed to train agents at the Port Angeles, Wash., station on how to abide by Fourth Amendment protections against illegal searches and seizures.