Scott Sumner  

Nebraskans are protected by the 4th amendment

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I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, surrounded by endless miles of cornfields. The closest foreign country was Canada, hundreds of miles to the north. The first time I ever saw saltwater was in 1977, when a senior in college. And yet if this ACLU map is accurate, the US government views Madison as a "border town":

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The map shows all regions that are (supposedly) within 100 miles of the US border. About 200 million Americans live within the shaded region, that's nearly 2/3rds of the entire US population.

But the map doesn't appear to be accurate, or perhaps the map is accurate, but the US government doesn't know where the US border actually is. Lake Michigan is not an international border. (Perhaps they use some phony excuse like US/Canadian treaties on navigation through the Great Lakes.)

This caught my eye:


A video reportedly showing Customs and Border Protection agents demanding proof of citizenship from Greyhound bus passengers in Florida last week has sparked fresh outrage over the Trump administration's hard-line immigration policies.

"If I haven't committed a crime why do I have to show you ID?" one passenger can be heard saying. . . .

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects people from arbitrary stops and searches, but federal law allows this to be overlooked in areas within 100 miles of U.S. borders. Florida lies entirely within that scope.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Border Patrol "cannot pull anyone over without 'reasonable suspicion' of an immigration violation or crime," nor can it search vehicles within that 100-mile zone without a warrant.

"In practice, Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people," the ACLU said.

President Donald Trump has hardened the U.S. stance on illegal immigration, widening the mandate with more frequent raids and arrests, stoking fears of deportations.


This isn't the country I grew up in. (Yes, the 100 mile region was established in 1953, but it was rarely enforced in those days.)

So what do I propose? The border patrol should only be allowed to inspect vehicles such as buses, planes and ships at the point of entry into the US. I presume the Greyhound bus in Ft. Lauderdale did not magically fly across the ocean. When looking for people on foot, perhaps a band few miles wide along the border is appropriate.

PS. At least the Constitution still applies in Nebraska.


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COMMENTS (15 to date)
Matthias Goergens writes:

Americans talking about their constitution reminds me of "Legal systems very different from ours", especially this chapter about rules supposedly set in stone.

Adam writes:

"This isn't the country I grew up in." Haven't read that phrase in a while. Liberty today is really worse off than in your year of birth?

I don't see the logic of the 1 mile free inquiry zone. The 4th applies to all US territory, and a 1 mile zone still covers very large coastal and border populations. A 1 mile zone violates the 4th just as 100 mile zone violates the 4th.

What about citizenship and id inquiries for employment, criminality and other such situations? TSA searches?


David R Henderson writes:

Good post, Scott.

Mike W writes:

This isn't the country I grew up in. (Yes, the 100 mile region was established in 1953, but it was rarely enforced in those days.)

Actually, it probably is the country you grew up in. There have been large boarder patrol checkpoints north of San Diego on I-5 and east on I-15 for as long as I have been in southern California (1968). Both checkpoints are well beyond the points of entry from Mexico and both have always routinely ordered cars pulled over and searched.

This incident is not the "Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies."

Sol writes:

I dunno. I grew up on border. Our local border patrol office was established during Prohibition, but I don't even remember hearing of a border patrol car in the 70s or 80s. Now they are lurking around in sight of the border quite frequently, and you hear stories of them stopping people ten or twenty miles from the border. It certainly feels different today than it did 40 years ago, even if the authorizing legislation may have been around for nearly a century.

David R Henderson writes:

@MikeW,
You make a good point, and so does Scott. It’s a matter of degree. Two stories.
In February 1973, I had been in the United States for all of 5 months and had finally got my California driver’s license (previously I had an Ontario one) in December 1972. I took the train down to see my American aunt and uncle in Oceanside and my father (from Canada), who was visiting his brother and sister-in-law. That evening I took the bus home and about 10 or 20 miles north of Oceanside, the bus pulled over and the immigration people got on and asked for people’s IDs. I don’t remember whether they asked me or not, but I had my California driver’s license ready to go and was glad I did. I think they were basically looking for Mexicans.
I also had had an earlier experience with the Border Patrol in North Dakota in May 1970, about 50 miles south of the border, when I was hitchhiking down to Chicago to see Harold Demsetz and Milton Friedman. The Border Patrol guy made me get back on a train to Winnipeg.
I don’t know enough to know whether this escalated with Trump. I think, though, that it did escalate with Bush Jr. and Obama.

Khodge writes:

About 2005 I was stopped in southern NM, on my way to Roswell; the US highway was not well traveled and quite a bit north of the interstate. But, then, is there another border not on the map?

Back in the mid 80's, on a trip that included Canada and "Mexico" (Tijuana), the only border issue I recall was going into CA from OR.

mercer writes:

Police DUI roadblocks are common. I don't see how this is worse unless you believe in open borders.

I think use of asset forfeiture when people are never charged is a far greater violation of the constitution.

Procrustes writes:

But Mercer - asset forfeiture and ICE stops often go hand in hand

ICE forfeiture - both criminal and civil - amounted to $3.6 billion over 2003 to 2013.

See this article https://www.forbes.com/sites/instituteforjustice/2017/10/16/leaked-handbook-reveals-how-ice-uses-civil-forfeiture-to-seize-millions/#39f4a7d3498c

Richard Wallace writes:

Thank God we are being protected from those pesky Canadians trying to overwhelm our Northern Wall

Andrew_FL writes:

I would bet on the ACLU not knowing how to properly draw the map. The Gulf, East, and West Coasts are not international borders, there are however maritime borders between Florida and the Bahamas & Cuba. But I don't know if the 100 mile zone is supposed to be defined relative to the edge of the EEZ or really is supposed to be just, whereever land meets water.

Keltic Kal writes:

It is really disturbing that the Gestapo would demand identification for bus passengers. Drivers going through internal checkpoints so far have not had to provide any documents and technically don't even have to talk to agents although some agents have been known to get violent and abusive. I suspect bus passengers could also refuse such requests but could also get assaulted by the Stazi. So much for the 4th amendment.

Tiocfaidh ár lá

Hazel Meade writes:

No kidding. I've been through the internal checkpoints in Southern Arizona and on the I-10 through El Paso.
Once, I was in the back seat and did not have my wallet with ID handy. It was packed in some camping gear in the back, and to make matters worse the people who I was with probably had small amounts of marijuana in their bags, so it would not have been a great idea to have to get out and dig through our stuff. Also I was a Canadian national and didn't carry around my I-20 for my student visa, so I couldn't really prove I was in the country legally. I simply told them I was American and my lack of accent probably let me get away with that. Imagine being in that situation and having a Spanish accent.

Scott Sumner writes:

Adam, You said:

"Liberty today is really worse off than in your year of birth?"

I didn't mean that in any overall sense, just this issue. Obviously it's better for African Americans.

Mike, See Sol's comment. It's much worse today.

I recall when driving into Canada was like driving into another American state.

Mercer, I also oppose DUI checkpoints. I agree with your second point.

Andrew, Can someone find the official government map?

Blissex writes:

Well, both local and federal police have pretty much always had "take your gloves off" powers in the USA, unless they targeted affluent middle class voters, as others have pointed out, so it is not exactly a novelty, what's a bit newer is how extensively applied these cheque have become.

But there are far worse things to worry about: both Bush and Obama have publicly boasted of running a large network of junta-style death squads that abduct, "torture" (wink wink) and assassinate "enemies" around the world, with weekly or monthly meetings in which the president proudly signs offs lists of secret death sentences prepared by DHS.
They have boasted of doing this because it is very popular -- even if protection from executive sentencing is one of the core purposes of modern states.

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