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.”
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: