Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Under Trump administration, Border Patrol searches increase even if far from border

Border Patrol officers are working without permission on private property and setting up checkpoints up to 100 miles away from the border under a little-known federal law that is being used more widely in the Trump administration’s aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration.

“The U.S. Border Patrol conducts transportation checks in accordance with the law,” said Stephanie Malin, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol. “Transportation checks are performed when and where there is an operational benefit.”

Throughout the nation, border officers working with state officials have conducted what many describe as illegal drug searches after residents were arrested at immigration checkpoints set up on major interstate highways. Other officers have been criticized for boarding buses and trains to question riders, mostly American citizens, about their immigration status.

For border residents and travelers, that authority amounts to an invasion of privacy. Ricardo D. Palacios, the owner of a ranch in Encimal, Texas, said in court filings that Border Patrol officers had been “roaming freely about” for years on his property and in November of last year, he found a surveillance camera hidden in a tree near his house.

Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said the department had occasionally pushed the limits of its authority to conduct searches without a warrant far from the border.

“Inevitably, one of these cases is going to get to the Supreme Court, which will have to revisit the seemingly limitless government authority the department claims it has,” Mr. Vladeck said. “It cannot be the case that anyone who lives or travels within 100 miles of the border has no Fourth Amendment rights.”