Traveling the Southern Border

If you travel close to the southern border you get used to crossing borders. Not the international borders as determined by wars, coersion or purchases, but the border as determined by CBP – Customs and Border Patrol. Their border is not where internationally recognized lines on maps might be, but rather wherever they decide the border is on any particular day, anywhere up to a hundred miles inland from the international border.

We crossed that border three times today.

Although the vast majority border crossers breeze through with only a quick stop and nod from the CBP agents, crossing the CBP border is actually somewhat more rigorous than crossing international borders in the European passport-free Schengen Area. It’s easier to drive between Germany and Switzerland than it is to drive between Nogales and Tucson in Arizona.

I’ve crossed the CBP border a bunch of times, always without a hassle. I’m an old white guy driving a pickup or campervan, so odds are that I’ll be stopped for five seconds and be on my way. This trip I noticed a dozen or more cameras catching cars approaching the CBP border, probably reading license plates and recognizing faces. I suspect that’s why they no longer ask if I’m a citizen. They already know.

I’m aware that not everyone has it so easy. Some legal residents get stopped more than others, and some detainees have a pretty rough time of it.

CBP is special. Unlike other law enforcement agencies, CBP has the authority to pretty much do whatever they want, unbound by restrictions that other law enforcement agencies might have. CBP doesn’t have to respect very many of your constitutional rights. There is no 4th amendment if CBP decides so. You cannot decline a vehicle search. You can be detained and denied access to council. That’s the law if you are within 100 miles of the border.

We certainly have a problem with the volume of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border, and CBP clearly has a difficult job. But giving up the ability to travel freely and suspending your rights seems a high price to pay. And the current practice of the politicizing the border – fabricating an election year crisis over the mythical invasion of destitute immigrants crossing Mexico on foot, separating families, putting kids in cages, and generally treating fellow humans like trash is certainly too high a price to pay.

I don’t believe that a wall will solve the immigration problem. The root cause of the problem is not on the border, but rather in the home country of illegal immigrants whose governments are so disfuntional and corrupt that their citizens would face rape, enslavement, or death in the desert rather than stay in their homes.

The Republican congressman from Texas, Will Hurd, whose district includes 800 miles of border, has ideas for helping resolve the problem that don’t depend on third century technology. Too bad his party doesn’t follow his lead.

I get hung up on topics like this because I sincerely believe that it is only chance that I was born into a good family in a good part of the world. I could just have well been born into a poor family in a broken country where crime and corruption were rampant. In that case, it would have been me crossing the Arizona desert at night, chased by CBP.