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.

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Comments on “Rancher Sues CBP After Officers Install A Camera On His Private Property”

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David says:

What right has the government annecting U.S. property?

The country is governed by the constitution. So how can the government declare any part of it as being outside of U.S. jurisdiction? Neither the 20 miles zone nor the 100 miles zone sound like they are the call of the government to make. Those are not war zones or contested borders. They are where one country ends and another starts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What right has the government

(“The country is governed by the constitution”)

No, it is not. And you are naive to think so. However, most Americans & TD share your mistaken assumption. You naive folks are constantly flummoxed by the non-constitutional behavior of American government because you cling to utopian notions about the nature of government itself. You observe government incongruity everywhere, but just can’t figure out why it is happening routinely.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: What right has the government

… the plainly stated “Correction” is that “No” the government does not obey the Constitution. The very TD post at the top of this thread is clear evidence of that — and TD has done many years of excellent work cataloging endless government unconstitutional behavior. Read the archives here if you want lots of factual elaboration.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: What right has the government annecting U.S. property?

The country is governed by the elected officials, and their appointed representatives. The constitution is an instruction manual. That the government does not follow the instruction manual is definitely a big problem. That the courts do not force those elected and appointed officials to follow the instruction manual is an even bigger problem.

We are supposed to be a country of laws, and when the laws are not followed (by the government and their appointees), and the system does not correct that, it is time to adjust the system.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Restricted-rights zones at borders

There’s a potentially reasonable argument to be made that there needs to be a buffer zone at a border with another country, within which things that should be forbidden to government in other parts of the country can be permitted, for the purpose of enforcing laws related to transfer of things between countries.

But if such zones are going to exist, they need to be exclusive – with no one permitted to live, work, or otherwise claim occupancy there, except in the course of enforcing those laws.

No such exclusive zones were established back when this country was being founded or when such laws were being put into place, and as such, we do not currently have such exclusive zones. (Or at least, I’d be very much surprised to learn otherwise.)

If the government wants to try to eminent-domain its way to a 35-mile buffer zone around border crossings, or a 100-mile zone around the borders (even just land borders, never mind coasts, or the question of how such a thing could possibly work with airports), and deal with the backlash that would result, it is free to do so.

But as long as the zone is part of the US, any people who live there must have the same rights under federal law as those in any other part of the US, and the same rights under state law as those in any other part of the state.

To conclude otherwise is to undermine the very concept of what it means for something to be a "right".

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Restricted-rights zones at borders

Live near a major city?

Does it have an international airport?

If so you live within the 25 mile boarder range. The border patrol can enter your house at will.

If you are more than 25 miles from the airport and less than 100 miles then you live within the portion of the US where the constitution does not apply.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Restricted-rights zones at borders

No such exclusive zones were established back when this country was being founded

That would have made it difficult to continually colonize both First Nations territories, and those of other European-derived countries, by using the Manifest Destiny-driven bait and cannon fodder that was us. We were the exclusionary (or excuse-ionary) zone.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Restricted-rights zones at borders

But as long as the zone is part of the US, any people who
> live there must have the same rights under federal law as
> those in any other part of the US, and the same rights
> under state law as those in any other part of the state.

> To conclude otherwise is to undermine the very concept of
> what it means for something to be a “right”.

I agree completely. The idea of a ‘Constitution-free zone’ or a ‘4th Amendment exception’ at the border is found nowhere in the actual Constitution. It was something made up by the government to justify doing what it wanted to do.

There’s no doubt the government should stay off this guy’s land if he tells them to.

However, this rancher’s story is in opposition to the vast majority of tales property owners along the border tell of being essentially terrorized in their own homes at all hours of the day and night by hordes of illegals who show up and bang on their doors and windows and demand to be let into their homes to use the phone, be given food and water, and to use the toilet. And that’s just the ‘law-abiding illegals looking for a better life’ that we hear so much about. The drug runners are an even more dangerous problem.

Years of complaining to every level of government– local, county, state, and federal– fell on deaf ears and they couldn’t get anyone to respond to their very real concerns for their own safety, let alone all the trespassing and trash dumping and fence-cutting and vandalism that they endure on their land.

Most of the people who live in the border region are more than happy to have the government finally showing up on their land, installing security cameras, and just policing the area in general– after years of asking for just that during the Bush and Obama years and getting nothing but radio silence from them.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Restricted-rights zones at borders

As I understand matters, the idea behind what has been labeled the "Constitution-free zone" is not "an exception to the Fourth Amendment", but rather that the Fourth Amendment only prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures – and that clearly, since border enforcement is necessary, falls within the responsibilities of the government, and cannot be carried out without carrying out searches, searches pursuant to border enforcement are de-facto reasonable (therefore not requiring warrants) by their very nature.

The latter point is where things get a bit sticky. While searching through someone’s horse-drawn wagon while they’re crossing the border, to make sure they aren’t smuggling contraband (including people, where and as applicable), makes perfect sense and might very well fit that "obviously reasonable" standard, the term "border search" has been expanded to cover things well beyond that point – or even the modern equivalent, which itself may no longer be quite equivalent because of the ways in which technology and society have developed.

If you want to fight the precedent that establishes those zones, however, the place you need to fight it is on that presumption of "obviously reasonable". (And, nice though it might be, a simple declaration that that presumption is incorrect does not serve as a very effective weapon in that fight.)

Alexis Rivera (profile) says:

The erosion of the american way of life continues

Its a testament to the disconnect from reality our government has that we even consider legal the elimination of the US constitution on the lands adjacent to our borders at all. This is a constitutional crisis, we should not tolerate even a single square kilometer of our nation to be without the protection of our constitution. We are great as a nation because we choose to defend and uphold the constitution for every citizen, without this we aren’t truly free.

What is the point for any of this if our own peope end up suffering rather than being safe?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The erosion of the american way of life continues

It isn’t a crisis. The government is outright saying it doesn’t apply. Since the government is predicated upon the constitution existing and being enforceable, they are admitting they no longer have a mandate. If there are constitution free zones, then there are places where the government has no authority.

Alexis Rivera (profile) says:

Re: Re: The erosion of the american way of life continues

That is not what they are doing though, they are not saying they don’t have a mandate or authority there, in fact they are claiming the opposite. They are effectively putting the CBP, Homeland Security and the Judicial system above the constitution rather than operating within its confines.

When you start crunching the numbers most of the US citizens live within 100 miles of a border. Going by that they have already set a precedent of operating above the constitution without having congress discuss and potentially amend the constitution so citizens can keep their rights wherever they live.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What is the point for any of this if our own people end up suffering rather than being safe?

To assuage the fears of people who think the government must do things like what is described in the article to keep us safe from all the evil brown people from other countries. Ironically, a lot of the people who feel that way tend to advocate for “smaller government”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Oh hell no – I agree with you. wtf is the matter with folk like yourself anyways? Lashing out at people who are not your enemy just because you are delusional and paranoid? – wtf.

I never said anything about how great the Dems are – and yet you assume (you know the saying) you know wtf …. yer an idiot.

Guess what … politicians lie – go figure. No one ever knew that until you told them huh.

Do you attack anyone who disparages your great leader?

Anonymous Coward says:

Leaning on qualified immunity?

Can anyone explain what Cushing means by the government “leaning on qualified immunity”? My understanding was that qualified immunity, like other forms of official immunity, is a defense used by government officials in their private capacities, not something that the government can assert for itself. Or did Cushing just get the facts wrong again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Leaning on qualified immunity?

Or did Cushing just get the facts wrong again?

Nice little backhand there. Qualified immunity is what gets used when the police fuck up, but really really really thought it was on the up-and-up. Or so they say. Basically it’s what they use to get off on doing illegal shit if it was for the greater good and some judge just buys that nonsense.

DB (profile) says:

Re: Leaning on qualified immunity?

Claiming ‘Qualified Immunity’ is an attempt to avoid review of either the CBP rules or the officers actions. It’s a claim that the officers weren’t necessarily allowed to do what they did, but they can’t be prosecuted individually as they were acting in their official capacity.

Normally it would be asserted by officials when prosecuted as individuals. Here it’s the government asserting the right of agents to do anything they like without being prosecuted, and extending that to cover the CBP.

It’s somewhat of a circular argument, but the CBP is arguing that they have the precedents to hold the loop together. Or at least cost the other side more than they can afford to argue against.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Leaning on qualified immunity?

“Leaning on” could be an implication that they are using it as a crutch because their stance is so lame.

wtf good is any law if some people are exempt?
Who is going to “respect” any laws that are selectively enforced?

These folk wag their fingers and denounce entitlement programs (which some are not) while overlooking their own demands for entitlements.

YaTOG says:

Posted No Trespassing - addendum - Trespassers will be SHOT

After posted, wait 30 days, if they continue to trespass, install automated gun drones.

Once the first 1 or 2 CBP criminal trespassers are lying on the ground, bleeding out, from automated gun drones, perhaps the CBP will think twice and start to notify ahead of time to request the drones be disabled temporarily (less than 3 hours) for an in and out.

If the property owner tells them no, then they enter at their own risk, until they get a valid court order that they must present, at the gates, before entering the property. Without that court order, then they are violating the property owner’s rights and are acting illegally, making them criminals.

YaTOG says:

Re: Re: Posted No Trespassing - addendum - Trespassers will be SHOT

It’s not a trap as it is clearly posted.
Trapping is doing something sneakily, hidden with intent to kill anyone.

Killing trespassers who have not identified themselves as law officers is perfectly legal.

If they don’t want to be shot, they go to the front gate, call and wait for permission.

If they don’t follow procedure, then they are criminals, nothing more, nothing less.

Violating federal law (ie getting a warrant and notifying the property owner) strips them of any protection they (and you) think they have.

YaTOG says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Posted No Trespassing - addendum - Trespassers will be SHOT

Mandatory jail time compared to 6ft under time for the criminals that violated the very laws they were sworn to uphold.

Seems pretty simple to me.
I wouldn’t mind the free food, free health care, free entertainment and sports progam.

Prisoners live better lives than all the jobless, homeless as well as those dependent upon social security.

If you’re sitting behind bars because you stood up for yourself, you’ll be treated like royalty by the other inmates.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Posted No Trespassing - addendum - Trespassers will be SHOT

To be fair we’re talking about a southern state, specifically Texas. The thing he’s most wrong about is “If they don’t want to be shot, they go to the front gate…”

In 1994 Andrew de Vries from Scotland knocked on a door in Houston to ask for directions. He was shot through the door and killed. The homeowner was never indicted.

Over in Louisiana in 1992, Japanese exchange student Takuma Ito knocked on a door. No answer. While walking away, the homeowner opened the door and shot and killed him. The homeowner was charged, but found not guilty.

Those would probably put the property owners in jail in northern states. Or in any western democracy. Or third world countries. But the south is… different.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Posted No Trespassing - addendum - Trespassers will be SHOT

Killing trespassers who have not identified themselves as law officers is perfectly legal.

Actually killing someone for trespassing is never legal. Trespassing and threatening, yes. But it’s the ‘threatening’ part, not the trespassing part that enables self defense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think it was laughing at Texas – you know, like a joke or something.

There was a story a while back about a Texas sheriff who got upset that someone was shooting up their stop sign so he installed a camera to catch the perpetrator.

Guess what happened …..

Yup, someone shot the camera first and then the stop sign.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Yeah, good luck with your “revolution” when the US military points a shitload of heavy ordinance at your house and tells you that you have ten seconds to comply with their orders or you will be metaphorically (then possibly literally) wiped off the face of the Earth. How much good do you think any of your guns will do then, hmm?

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

(Nit: “ordnance”. An ordinance is a law, usually city or county rather than state or federal. The former term is apparently derived directly from the latter, but their senses are now distinct.)

While it’s true that personal armaments aren’t likely to do much good against the kind of firepower that the US military can bring to bear when it wants to, wouldn’t that serve equally well as an argument that private individuals should be able to have access to that same kind of firepower, to keep that playing field more level?

There are all sorts of problems with that scenario too, of course, when considering its subsequent ramifications – but since people do (apparently) hold that viewpoint, it needs to be addressed when the argument that “the military will vastly outgun any domestic revolutionary group anyway” is presented, or the two sides just end up talking past one another and the discussion goes nowhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wait a minute...a camera?

This makes almost no sense.

Security cameras are useful after-the-fact for figuring out what happened, but they’re really not a very useful tool for stopping something from happening.

And in this particular case, anybody who is either where they shouldn’t be (e.g., wrong country) or doing something they shouldn’t do (e.g., drug distribution) is not going to obligingly do it right in front of a camera. (How will they know where it is? The rancher knew.) They’re also not going to do it during daylight hours and they’re not going to leave their license plates or faces visible, etc.

Surely the border patrol knows all this. So what was the point of deploying it?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Do you also support Mexico taking over the US side of the border to stop the flow of guns and drug money into their country?

Refugees have been crossing the border into Canada by the thousands over the last year or so. There’s a lot of guns flowing north too. Do you support Canada setting up a DMZ on the US side of the border?

Personanongrata says:

Gestapo USA

Rights are optional within 100 miles of US borders and they’re completely nonexistent within 25 miles of crossing points.

Why, what a wonderful place to settle down and raise a family.

What is wrong with roving bands of armed men/women in US government issued costumes roaming freely about your property?

What is wrong with having to genuflect to costumed US government agents at unconstitutional checkpoints in order to travel to and from town and your home?

America, America where have you gone?

Cast off the repressive/criminal yoke of the US government.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

But you signed up for this so you could be safe.
These terrorists hate you for your freedoms, that you willingly handed over to groups more interested in photo-ops and soundbites than protecting you.

We have CBP who can do whatever they want to stop them sneaky terrorists, even if they are deploying tactics seen in 3rd world dictatorships & the reich.

We have TSA agents who can steal your property, deal drugs, take your cash, fondle children & face no repercussions.

We have acronyms able to scoop up all of our calls & data, pass it around between them to ‘protect’ us… yet haven’t stopped a single event.

We have the FBI taking schizophrenics, & mentally challenged people pairing them up with someone motivated to get their own charges dropped down by pushing them to commit ‘terrorism’ even if the FBI has to pay out the money to buy the required elements.

We have the DOJ & DEA running around trying to stomp out the demonweed, there isn’t a single case moving against pharma for creating and profiting from the opiod problem. It is more likely they will decline to prosecute (because it would be hard to win), and magically become new consul for the company.

We’re talking about arming teachers & training them to protect kids… when we can’t even pay them enough for the job they do now & provide supplies & safe buildings.

We are screaming about the guns, like we always do, & refusing to admit perhaps there are underlying problems we as a society should address.

We destroyed the horrible mental hospitals, promised something better & just walked away from them.

We pass laws to make it a crime to feed homeless people.

We send men & women to ‘defend’ us around the globe but when they get home we fail to keep up our end of the deal & hold those responsible for the failures accountable.

We created this & we’re to busy screaming about everything but the actual problems. Our government views us as criminals just waiting to strike, so they have to keep us in line. We gleefully pay them because they tell us if we don’t accept this we’ll have a terrorist in every pressure cooker and a dirty bomb in every garage…. we’re stupid.

Home of the Free*

*- For very limited definitions of free.

GEMont (profile) says:

Protect and Serve Who?

“…encroach on the rights of the citizens they’re supposed to be protecting.

I have to wonder, exactly what makes Americans think that American law enforcement officers – anywhere in America – are still supposed to be protecting American Citizens?

Remember, your Constitution was rewritten secretly after 9/11. What other long standing directives were secretly rewritten after 9/11?

The term “Protect and Serve” does not actually explain what or who they are protecting or serving, after all.

It could simply mean – “Protect and serve the 1%”.

Is there some sort of law or statute that clarifies the actual recipient of an American LEO’s protection and service, to be the American Public?

Current events would appear to show quite the opposite, especially since The Bigot in Chief bought the office of POTUS and turned it into Whiteland Inc., to insure his family’s prosperity and protection at American Tax-payer’s expense, forever.

Perhaps an open revue of “precisely” what a Law Enforcement Officer’s actual duties include – precisely who and what they protect and serve – might be in order at this time.

If such a review is still allowed by law that is…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Protect and Serve Who?

Uh, you have two things wrong. Worryingly wrong.

Firstly, no, the Constitution has not been amended, altered, or changed since the early 1990s. It is on display 24/7, and with so many thousands of judicial workers and lawyers requiring it in order to create, uphold, or overturn any law or judicial decision ever made, it could hardly remain “secret.” There are certain acts that were passed (such as the PATRIOT act) that could be considered constitutional by some, but the Constitution itself has not been modified by them. All it takes is the right challenge.

Secondly, the phrase is “to protect and to serve” and it does not originate from any branch of federal, or even state, government. It became the motto of the Los Angeles Police Department in 1955, and being that the LAPD has proximity over Hollywood, it has been used in TV and movies the most. Other local PDs have different mottos — Houston, for example, has “Order through law, justice with mercy”. Phoenix has “To Ensure the Safety and Security for Each Person in our Community”. The CBP has no official motto.

Thirdly, there are, actually, definitions of what LEOs do. They are bound by the laws and scope of their department. For police officers, that is their local department. For state troopers, it is their state government. For CBP, it is the Department of Homeland Security, whose limits are not always well-defined or well-enforced, but it is hardly difficult to discover the laws that define them.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Protect and Serve Who?

I think the line about the Constitution having been "rewritten secretly after 9/11" was intended to imply that (many of) the things the government has been doing since that date – without being overturned as Constitutional violations by the courts – are so far out of consistency with the publicly-known Constitutional text that the only reasonable conclusion is that the government (including the courts in question) must now be working from different text, which they simply haven’t shared with the rest of us.

(This of course assumes that "the government (including the high-level courts which overrule the others) is ignoring the Constitution" is not a reasonable conclusion, which one might consider questionable.)

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