And Washington residents haven't been happy about it...
The border patrol recently addressed a number of residents who were upset about the internal checkpoints by suggesting they have been successful, citing that they have captured 81 suspected illegal immigrants and detained 19 people for alleged crimes out of 41,912 people stopped at those checkpoints, (which actually gives the stops an dismal .2% success rate.)
Well, that supposed success rate might be even less successful now after the US Attorney's office appears to agree with a local civil rights lawyer's assertion that the checkpoints are a violation of the 4th Amendment safeguards against illegal search and seizure, which has caused them to drop charges in a number of cases that were brought by the US Border Patrol so far.
It appears as though this started after one of these "internal checkpoints" netted a medical marijuana patient, (medical use is legal in Washington) and detained him for petty possession charges.
The patient, a 55 year old veteran named Stephen Dixon, described his encounter with the border patrol to the Seattle Post Intelligencer:
"We were ordered out of the vehicle and they asked us to stand there," Dixon said. "Spread your legs, put your hands on the car. We were both patted down. Then we were asked to empty our pockets."
The agents had not found the marijuana yet when they ordered Dixon and his friend to sit on the curb. That was painful for Dixon, who has only one leg, a bad knee and a severely damaged spine.
When he finally stood after a few minutes to relieve his aching back, a Border Patrol officer threatened to put him in handcuffs, Dixon said.
The two men also complained when the Border Patrol dog was allowed to search inside their car without permission.
"I asked a couple of questions -- probably sarcastic -- like: 'Do you have more authority than God?' His answer was, 'Here on Earth we do.' "
"They said: 'You need to understand our authority' and gave me a pamphlet about the Patriot Act.'"
Dixon, upset about the charges, contacted several attorneys before getting a hold of a local, and outspoken, civil rights attorney named Paul Richmond who has given presentations and lectures around the state about civil rights issues and who has been active in taking on the US Border Patrol in another case of on-duty border patrol agents videotaping protests against the internal checkpoints and raids into the homes of US citizens.
Attorney Paul Richmond, (www.olympicpeninsulalaw.com and www.storytellinglawyer.com) told us that he convinced US Attorney Jeff Sullivan to drop the charges on the grounds that they were based on an illegal search and seizure and thus violated Dixon's 4th Amendment protections.
Richmond states that a letter sent to Sullivan pointed out a ruling by the US Supreme Court, in fact it's the same ruling that the border patrol cites as their justification for these "internal roadblocks", which actually limits their authority. In the decision, US v Martinez-Fuerte, the court established that the US Government "has never approved a checkpoint program who's primary purpose was to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing."
In addition to the charges being dropped against the medical marijuana patient Richmond represented, charges were dropped against 4 others on the same basis, which means at least 5 of the 19 arrests made at the checkpoints have been invalidated because they are deemed to be violations of the 4th Amendment.
Apparently, despite the US Border Patrol's professed beliefs, they do not have more authority than god... or the US Constitution for that matter.