Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rural lack of anonymity not at play with border enforcement

The New York Times reported yesterday from Arivaca, Arizona, population 909, just a few miles north of the Mexican border.  The headline is "Border Patrol Scrutiny Stirs Anger in Arizona Town," and Fernanda Santos reports that residents of Arivaca--old and new alike--are fed up with the frequent stops they must endure at Border Patrol checkpoints.  Here's the lede:
Every time Jack Driscoll drives the 32 miles from this remote outpost in southeastern Arizona to the closest supermarket, or to doctor’s appointments, or to a pharmacy to fill his prescriptions, he must stop at a Border Patrol checkpoint and answer the same question: “Are you a U.S. citizen?” 
Sometimes, Border Patrol agents ask where he is going or coming from, the type of car he is driving, what is in that bag on the back seat or what brings him to these parts, even though he has lived here for more than a year.
But this experience is not linked to Driscoll's status as a relative newcomer.  Others who have lived in the area much longer than Driscoll are also stopped.  You see, the lack of anonymity that would normally serve as buffer between residents and law enforcement--which would mean that law enforcement would learn over time who is a U.S. citizen and who is not--doesn't work in this context because, as Santos explains:
Because the border agents who staff them are on duty for only a few weeks, their relationship to the community has never evolved beyond an adversarial one.
Indeed, Santos explains, even school buses full of children and "the minibus that takes older residents on weekly shopping trips also get stopped" at the checkpoint on Arivaca Road, which apparently lies between the community of Arivaca and more populous parts of Pima County--where most services are.

Santos describes the checkpoint experience as similar to "going through airport security (albeit more briefly, and not everyone gets searched)."
Some of those checkpoints, like the ones that ring Arivaca, operate under canopy tents set up on the side of country roads flanked by wilderness and pasture, a cramped air-conditioned trailer offering the agents’ only respite from the oppressive desert heat. Others stretch along all lanes of major highways that lead from Mexico into the United States, visible from many miles away and, for drivers, virtually impossible to avoid.
Santos goes onto describe a citizens group of volunteers in Arivaca who have been monitoring the checkpoint.  They track the length of the stops and such.  So far, they report seeing no one arrested and no drugs seized.

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