Rancher Sues CBP After Officers Install A Camera On His Private Property
from the CBP-is-just-another-word-for-nothing-left-to-violate dept
The CBP’s habit of moving further and further inland in their search for deportees, drugs, and water to dump on the ground isn’t making it any new friends. Residents of small towns near the border are getting very sick of having to assert their citizenship multiple times a day thanks to Checkpoint Charlie camping out on every road out of town.
The federal government doesn’t care. No sacrifice is too great to demand from citizens to keep this country safe from job seekers, victims of violence, and the occasional MS-13 gang member. Rights are optional within 100 miles of US borders and they’re completely nonexistent within 25 miles of crossing points. It’s this 25-mile cutoff that’s key to federal lawsuit arising from trespassing CBP officers and the spy cam they placed on the property of a local who’s spent years complaining about the CBP’s incursions.
Cyrus Farivar covers the story of Texas rancher Ricardo Palacios at Ars Technica. And it’s a good one. Palacios discovered a camera on his property and took it down. Shortly thereafter, the CBP and the Texas Rangers rang him up, demanding the return of their surveillance camera. Palacios refused and was threatened with criminal charges.
Palacios, who had run-ins with local CBP agents going back several years, took the camera as the last straw. He was tired of agents routinely trespassing on his land, and, even after complaining several times, he was frustrated that his grievances were not being heard.
As a possible way to ward off the threat of arrest, he sued the two agencies, along with a named CPB agent, Mario Martinez. Palacios accused them of trespass and of violating his constitutional rights.
“My client is 74 years old, he’s a lawyer, been practicing for almost 50 years, he has no criminal history whatsoever, law-abiding citizen, respected lawyer and senior citizen,” Raul Casso, one of the attorneys representing Palacios, told Ars. “To have put him in jail would have been—forget the indecency of it—what a way to end a career.”
For now, the camera is being held by Raul Casso. Casso wants to introduce it as evidence in Palacios’ lawsuit. Central to his lawsuit is the CBP’s free-for-all zone, which statutorily permits the CBP to do whatever the hell it wants within 25 miles of a border crossing. The thing is Palacios’ property ends 35 miles from the nearest border crossing in Laredo, Texas. That leaves Palacios in the “Constitution-free zone” (100 miles from the border) where he can be subjected to suspicionless searches, but puts him 10 miles past the point where the CBP can enter his property for any reason at all.
Palacios alleges years of illegal behavior by CBP personnel, all seemingly stemming from a stop of his sons by the CBP seven years ago.
[H]is interactions with CBP began in April 2010 when his two sons were stopped at a checkpoint along I-35. When one son, Ricardo Palacios Jr., refused to answer questions, he was taken to a secondary inspection where he was assaulted by a CBP officer. Eventually, after being detained for 90 minutes, he was driven home to the ranch just a few miles away.
Over the next several years, CBP agents roamed “freely about, day or night” on the Palacios ranch, despite his numerous efforts to protest. He even sent a formal letter to a regional CBP supervisor on April 9, 2010. However, the letter doesn’t seem to have made any substantive difference.
A cycle of CBP agents making incursions onto the ranch and Palacios telling them to leave continued for years—that is, until he found the camera.
The lawsuit hopes to prevent CBP from entering Palacios’ property without permission or probable cause. Palacios isn’t close enough to the border for the CBP to deploy its “zero rights recognized” arguments, so the agency is leaning on qualified immunity instead. Even so, it still needs to explain why it installed a camera on private property 35 miles inland. So far, the lawsuit consists only of Palacios’ complaint [PDF] and the government’s response. No rulings have been made, and the motion [PDF] by Palacios to admit the camera as evidence has yet to be reviewed by a judge.
This may seem like a small incursion only miles from an area the federal government (and the courts that agree with it) have said Americans have zero rights. But it touches on a larger issue. At what point (and at what exact distance) does American life as we know it cease to exist? Where is the bright line that declares rights null and void — a sacrifice on the altar of border enforcement and national security? These are questions that need to be answered precisely. Punting on these issues will only embolden federal agents to wander further from the border and encroach on the rights of the citizens they’re supposed to be protecting.