Every morning as I drive to the bus station in town I listen to 95.7 FM, which plays old rock and roll songs. It also features the Bob Rivers Show. This week they interviewed Johnny Walker, an Iraqi who worked with U.S. troops in Iraq and currently lives in California. About a minute into the interview, he was asked what he liked about living in America. His answer was unwittingly ironic.
There is no checkpoint, he said.
For those in other southern states, this is not the case.
In Arizona, residents are battling internal checkpoints, which are set up as far as 100 miles away from the border.
According to the Fox News article:
Arivaca residents say they are regularly subjected to delays, searches, harassment and racial profiling at the checkpoints. Six residents monitored the checkpoint Wednesday on Arivaca Road, 25 miles north of the Mexico border.
Ironically, a construction worker who worked in Iraq is quoted in the story as saying that these checkpoints were very similar to the ones he had to go through in order to get to work everyday.
Some may say that these checkpoints are necessary to ensure safety or to capture illegal immigrants, criminals and drug dealers. Obviously, the residents in Arivaca don’t believe this and are looking to prove it.
But whether that is true or not, the question has to be asked if such measures are constitutional. If this seems like an odd question, consider that first. If asking if the government has the authority to do something sounds or seems quaint to you, perhaps that is an indication that the government as de facto authority to do whatever it wants. If that is the case, then why do we claim to be free?
In 1941, President Roosevelt thought it was proper to detain thousands of innocent Japanese Americans during World War 2 in order to ensure the safety and security of the American people. But regardless of what the Supreme Court says (it ruled it is constitutional) it was a blatant violation of at the very least the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth and Tenth amendments to the Constitution.
Additionally, security and safety have been given the same reverence as pagan idols of ancient times. Not only is the purpose of government – in theory, at least – to protect freedom and liberty, but they do not require or demand anything of anyone else. Those who promote the god and goddess of safety and security, however, demand sacrifices on their altars, and those sacrifices are always freedom and liberty.
Internal border checkpoints interfere with people’s right to travel, detain them without probable cause or suspicion of committing a crime, and intimidate citizens by asking questions with the presumption that refusal to do so will result in arrest.
Gavin Seim, a fellow Washington resident, demonstrates in this video of an encounter with an internal checkpoint officer that simply asking “Am I being detained or “Am I free to go?” forces them to either let you go or detain you – and since they have no evidence whatsoever that you have committed a crime, they most likely choose the former. Sometimes, however, they will arrest just to prove a point, even if the charges are later dismissed.
Internal checkpoints rely on people’s ignorance of their own constitutional rights, their deference for law enforcement, and naive trust in the legal system.
As drivers have shown, you are not required to answer any questions officers ask at an internal security checkpoint. Actual border checkpoints, however, are a different story.
Sadly, the question, “Am I free to go?” is more than a legal tactic. It’s an actual question because the answer isn’t clear.
Checkpoints are not the symbol of a free society. You cannot say you are free to travel if you feel pressured or intimidated to prove to a law enforcement officer you have not broken the law without probable cause. It reminds me of a scene from Hunt for Red October in which Marko Ramius and his executive officer are speaking about America, and the officer is excited at the ability to travel without papers from state to state – something which he could not do in the USSR.
In a libertarian anarchist society, private companies and individuals would own roads and would be able to determine the proper steps for securing their property. They would have the right to set up checkpoints and determine the rules for their roads, but then drivers would have the ability to not use those roads and instead choose to drive on roads owned by companies that do not have checkpoints. And as I’ve pointed out, private security never treats their customers this way. I work in a building with private security, and I am treated to “Good morning, sir,” every morning.
If you have to ask if you are free to go, something is already wrong with the situation.