My Trip Through the Check-Point Near the California – Arizona Border

by on March 2, 2012 · 23 comments

in Civil Rights, Popular

By JEC

I recently enjoyed my 28th wedding anniversary. To celebrate my wife and I went to Las Vegas for a couple of days. Bored with the traditional I-15 route, we opted for a more adventurous route – east – to Brawley and State Route 78 as it travels through the Chocolate Mountains ending at Interstate 10 near Blythe. Wild country.

From the sand dunes near Glamis winding north through desert and sage we saw massive solar projects, and even larger excavation projects that we assumed involved mining in some form. The scenery was magnificent – set off as it was by the crisp clear weather. The desert is best in the early morning hours. Before the winds kick up the dust.

Our morning drive was interrupted by a surprising discovery of a Border Patrol roadblock on State Route 78 about 44 miles outside of Brawley.

Now why was it a surprise?

Most of us know about the Border Patrol roadblock on Interstate 5 that’s been there for decades. In the early days us locals nick-named it “Checkpoint Charlie” in reference to the Berlin Wall and the main military gate from the Soviet sector to the U.S. sector.

The idea of checkpoints or roadblocks has been a Constitutional debate for decades. Most of us see it in conflict with the notion of a free nation and Constitutionally guaranteed rights, including the freedom of travel.

The Supreme Court has blessed these “Checkpoints” with certain limits in their opinion popularly referred to as “Ortiz”.

In a nutshell “Ortiz” could search a vehicle if the BP Officer had a reasonable suspicion there might be an illegal immigrant hiding inside.

Think Checkpoint Charlie and how you just slow down long enough for the Officer to get a look at you and the vehicle; then get waved on, usually. There was a time… oh, I won’t go into that now . . . but in the last decade it would seem the Border Patrol has drifted away from the confines of Ortiz. Many if not most of the BP checkpoints use drug dogs. The Yuma I-8 Checkpoint about 10 miles east of Yuma has every vehicle smelled by drug dogs. The BP also says they’re trained for explosives, but I think we know.

Anyway, we had to wait a few minutes as we watched the officers use the dog to smell a large truck. When our turn came I said good morning to the officer and immediately asked “You, the Border Patrol, are doing this checkpoint under the authority of “Ortiz”.

The Officer answered, “a, what?” I clarified, “The authority, the Supreme Court decision that allows the Border Patrol to have checkpoints, the Ortiz decision.”

This time he answered, “Yes.”

I quickly followed up with “So, do you have a reason to believe we are illegal immigrants?”

He noted, “Illegals come in all shapes and sizes.”

I agreed.

He glanced at his fellow officer who was holding back the dog on the other side of our car, looked back at me and said “have a nice day.”

That was it, we drove on. It seems the Border Patrol will still honor the limits of the Ortiz decision provided you point it out first thing. Silence is approval.

Have a nice day.

Map of Border Check-Points:

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar John Rippo March 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm

When they say “Papers, please”
You can say “Ortiz”…..

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avatar Frank Gormlie March 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Or, how about instead of “Paper or plastic?” they can say “Paper or Ortiz?”

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avatar Nanci Oechsle March 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm

My sons and I went through that same checkpoint last year on our way to AZ. I thought it was weird.. they had me roll down my window so they could see into the backseat to confirm who was riding in the back (my back windows are tinted). I drove off wondering what it would have been like if we weren’t white. Very sad state of affairs.

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avatar goBallistic March 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm

“Choke Point”. Not a Check point. Can’t help but extend beyond this timely & well-written piece, and in full view of NDAA enforcement, the Check Point concept is now a “Choke Point”.

Consider, where are the points in our lives we may become targeted by Homeland Security? The rules have changed havent they?

At what point are individuals (and groups) re-classified as a terrorist or agitator or. . . .? At what point(s) in our daily lives do we become “fully exposed” and most vulnerable? Most importantly, how to we recognize if/when we are being scrutinized (dare I say attacked?) and

How do we avoid being caught up in their “nets” in the first place?
We have powerful tools for non-violent protests in a world of mass communications and progressive methods, surely we will not be taking our queues from abroad: Wear a bandana and sunglasses.

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avatar Judy Swink March 2, 2012 at 2:06 pm

In (2008? 2009?), when I was driving home from Tucson on AZ State Route 86 (I like to skip freeways when I can; longer drive but much more interesting), I encountered a checkpoint in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere (I think I had just exited the Tohono O’odham reservation). Turned out they weren’t Border Patrol but were wearing DHS patches!

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avatar unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG March 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm

There’s also a checkpoint on I-8 on the westbound between here & El Centro. Got stopped on return trip.

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avatar Shane Finneran March 3, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Ain’t it funny how it makes you feel kind of like a criminal, even when you’re not breaking any laws?

Or maybe funny isn’t the right word.

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avatar Anna Daniels March 3, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Shane- I have had the same sentiment. We drove east on 8 to Boulevard, to visit a friend. On the way home we had to go through a checkpoint. My Beloved was profoundly confused by the concept and almost ran said checkpoint, with me screaming “Fergodssake stop!” I recall a Marine, not in the least happy about our charge past the very large stop sign. It creeped me out beyond words, and I have not returned to Boulevard since.
I ain’t gonna show no stinking papers. And funny is not the word…

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avatar cahlo March 4, 2012 at 7:22 am

we all know the CPs are there, we all know why they are there, what is the point if you have nothing to hide?

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avatar JEC March 4, 2012 at 9:17 am

Good question – old law enforcement line – if you have nothing to hide – then why? Symbols are important – and powerful. The cross, the star of david, etc., and political symbols – the act of voting, freedom of speech. America claims moral superiority as a “Free” nation. Freedom of moment to travel without being stopped, searched and questioned is not the attributes of a free nation. Ortiz tried to address this troubling conflict between the idea of freedom and the practice. As a nation of laws, the enforcers of those laws also must abide by laws. The Constitution was designed to limit the power of government; law enforcement is the very expression of that government power; it is the power of the state at work. I spent five minutes watching the dog sniff out a car carrier – a large frame of open steel used to transport cars – an empty car carrier. I have no doubt the officers and the dog were searching for drugs. How ever you feel about that issue, under the law the Border Patrol does not have the legal right to set up roadblocks to pursue domestic local drug enforcement. Just like the rest of us, law enforcement tends to push the boundaries – take short cuts. But if this is ok – why not allow them to search your home, your computer – to deny you any privacy. As shown by the recently deceased James Q. Wilson and Rudy Guilianni big crime, big problems start small. The Roadblocks are a shameful reminder of our national failures. I say end them.

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avatar Alan March 4, 2012 at 10:37 am

I was on a bus coming back from my trip to the east, on Greyhound. . lol…( Another Story) and want through the check point in question and the BP pulled 6 (questionaby looking) citizens off the bus and after 10 minutes or so the bus left the checkpoint, less 5 passengers. 40 minutes later we hit another checkpoint outside of Mexicali and low and behold we get detained again, this time requiring use th get off the bus. The dogs went through the bus and the storage compartment. They brought several bags off the bus and had people craim bags and did a hand search of bags. Found nothing but detained 3 more questionable citizens… 10 minutes later we on the road almost 2 hours behind schedule.

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avatar Mary Cairns March 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I hope the money expended to man these checkpoints are worth it. Last Oct I was heading to Agua Caliente Campground for the weekend (on a friday), and got stopped and questioned by 3 guards N of I-8 on the 802. I almost had to pull out my toyota truck registration and drivers license. A friend of mine had the same experience in a little mini-cooper. Now, what I find interesting, is that we were both blonds in our 50s….go figure…

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avatar C DURAN July 1, 2012 at 10:36 am

Just want to comment on my trip back to Tucson from Rocky Point. I’m traveling in my truck pulling my jet ski with my dark skinned eighteen year old daughter and two grand-children. Following behind us are our Norwegian friends, very blonde. We get through the border without incident. Arriving at the check point between Lukeville and Why, Az. we get a border patrol agent by the name of G. Solis. I said “Hello!…We are all U.S. citizens”, he demands our “Immigration papers”. It took me by surprize so I stared for a moment then said “Immigration papers?, we have I.D..” He repeated “You need to show me your Immigration papers, I need your passports.” I say “We are not immigrants, nor are we immigrating to this country. You are not supposed to ask for our passports when we are already in our country.” At this point Mr. G. Solis tells me to pull over to the side of the check point so he can harrass me some more while our Norwegian friends go cruising by because they were waived through the check point based on their blonde looks, not immigration status! I completely understand and my Norwegian friends agree this was about a tiny man who is powerless in his personal life and has to take advantage of his position as an agent of my own government to feel some kind of power. However, my dark child felt that it was because of her that this man had a right to harass us. I want my daughter to know that she is protected by her government, not discriminated against by it. Employees like this need to be singled out and FIRED!! Our government should not have to be sued over and over to get it right. SHAME on BORDER PATROL!!!

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avatar JEC July 1, 2012 at 11:57 am

An all to common experience. The lesson I have learn – refuse to cooperate – offer NO id unless and until they state their probable cause – under Ortiz they must have a reason to suspect you are illegal immigrants. As what they are doing is morally wrong and legally questionable, in true Thoreau fashion, the best course is to non-cooperation.

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avatar RB July 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Hopefully these standard of non-cooperation don’t catch on when we all fill out our income taxes.

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avatar Pringles August 29, 2012 at 9:31 pm

I came down to Arizona recently from up north and noticed that in the building when I was processed back into the country from Nogales Mexico, that most of the customs officials were Mexicans as well as all the BP agents on the highways. That seems kind of like they’re turning against their own people in a way.

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avatar B. Mylo September 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm

The Interstate 8 checkpoint located about 60 miles east of Yuma is a blatant violation of the 4th Amendment. Here’s how it works: Border Patrol has this net that they stretch across the highway to capture all traffic. The purpose is to enforce illegal immigration. They then run dogs around your car and if they find a marijuana seed or any “contraband” they take you over to their shack where a Yuma County Sheriff is stationed. The Federal immigration search then turns into a state law violation. Sleezy and totally illegal yet the Arizona cops are making millions off people every year. Here is an excellent article on this checkpoint. http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2008-03-13/news/border-patrol-checkpoints-near-yuma-nab-hordes-of-pot-users-headed-back-from-the-beach/

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avatar adameye October 12, 2012 at 10:11 am

I had a painful experience a few days ago and been detained for around 5 hours, even I listed all legal docs (some o them are photographs) but they can not find corresponding record in their so-called “super database” from my fingerprints. They denied my appeal to find a lawyer, took my cellphone. what a fucking experience! I tried twice to ask the communication with outside and finally one friendly officer used his own iphone charger to charge my iphone and looked through my docs photo again. He called someone and realized I am legal and released me. Definitely Arizona state is not a friendly place and will never go again! What I do not understand is , why I can not find a lawyer? why I have been denied the right to contact my friends? (even they approved after my painful appealing). They threatened to detain me for 3 days (because of Sat, sun and the next Monday is holiday) and they looks like eager to over this case and put me into jail in that Friday. If I gave up at that time, I would be screwed.

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avatar Charlotte January 7, 2013 at 10:22 pm

My girlfriend and I usually take a road trip every few years from California to Alabama. We take the 10 East, so we go through Phoenix, the bottom corner of New Meixco, El Paso etc. there is a checkpoint in NM I believe and the only thing they ever do is say “Are you both US citizens?” We say yes. Then they say “Ok have a good day”. My gf is mixed with Mexican therefore she does look Mexican, but we’ve never had an issue with being asked any other questions.

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avatar Daniel December 11, 2013 at 6:39 pm

White male in 20s, used to visit my gf in California frequently before she moved back out here. Never had any problems with bp on the way into Cali. On the way back to Phoenix, I have been detained, my car searched, 3 separate times. Never find anything, of course, but I once had one of them try to convince me that a spec of lettuce from a sandwich was marijuana. Traitorous fools, the lot of them. I ceased interstate travel by road because of such bp harassment. This is exactly the reason it is disallowed by the constitution.

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avatar duckfeet April 19, 2014 at 4:01 am

I noticed several people were ‘all right’ with this, the old ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry’ attitude. Sadly for me, I’d just been reading some books on Germany prior to World War II. I got out of Vietnam in 1972, and *this* is the freedom they say we were supposed to be fighting for? I remember waiving goodby to the 101st Airborne when they went home, and then we pulled in same area as ‘advisor’ team to the 1st Division ARVN (South Vietnamese). Sound familiar? It should.

This is pretty much the exact explanation they gave to the ‘good’ Germans when they were rounding up the jews: ‘If they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to worry about.’ The protections our founding fathers were worried about, were there in the Bill of Rights to protect us from our own government, *not* to protect us from ‘illegals’ and ‘potheads.’ I’m sitting here in Phoenix now scared to go either way, as they can pretty much throw the dogs on me no matter *which* direction I go in…and yeah, I’m one of those radicals that think what I put in my body isn’t the government’s business.

I’m now illegal just about by definition. Oh Well, thank God for OB.

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avatar dpa April 19, 2014 at 10:31 am

Hey duckfeet, a good friend recently drove from Phoenix to Salt Lake City, starting off on Grand AVE. Not sure of the exact route, possibly through Las Vegas. Anyway I specifically asked if there were any bp checkpoints and they said no. I do not use illegal drugs, but I also believe it’s your body, your business. Good luck to you… This BP stuff is infuriating.

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avatar John F April 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I was busted at the I8 checkpoint near Yuma. Seeds they said were marijuana seeds count as possession in AZ. That was enough to threaten my partner and I each with a felony and 1.5 years in jail in that backwards-ass state. They also took antacids out of an unmarked bottle and looked them up in a book trying to prove they were illegal drugs. Ha! They threatened to impound my car when I refused to take the charges seriously. I told them they had no idea what they were talking about, much to their annoyance. The whole thing is just a money making scam. Willie Nelson and Lil Wayne have had their tour buses stopped at these checkpoints too. So I’m not in bad company. I was the only white dude (with shaggy hair) they had pulled over, the rest were darker colors. Not hard to see what is going on.

Ive also been pulled over and let go at CA checkpoints despite having medicine with me. So I blame AZ.

If you’ve got nothing to hide you shouldn’t mind being stopped, detained and searched inside your own country? Why don’t we all just wear GPS ankle monitors then? Why don’t we allow the NSA to read every email… oh wait we do.

Have a high school dropout check your antacids at gunpoint and tell me how this is the land of the free.

Nice to see Jon’s words living on in this story. Peace dude.

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