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    ACLU: Expanding Border Powers Creating ‘Constitution-Free Zone’ That Covers Two-Thirds of Americans

    For several months, I have been working at the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program on a project concerning searches and seizures of US citizens by Border Patrol agents far inland from the actual borders. Fully two-thirds of the US population (197.4 million people) live within 100 miles of the country’s borders, where Border Patrol has been assuming broad powers to interrogate US citizens, creating a “Constitution-Free Zone.” Today, the ACLU held an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, to highlight this problem, and two US citizens described their harrowing experiences with Border Patrol.

    About two-thirds of the US population live within the 100-mile "Constitution-Free Zone" of the United States

    Click image for the full map. Then click on each state with orange in it to see what percentage of that state's population lives within 100 miles of the US border, a "Constitution-Free Zone."

    Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and LIberty Program, discusses the problem over at DailyKos. He writes:

    The government is turning vast swaths of our country into a “Constitution-Free Zone” in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is allowed to exercise extraordinary authority that would not normally be permitted under the Constitution. The government says that “the border” -– where there is a longstanding view that the Constitution does not fully apply -– actually stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s “external boundary.” And increasingly, we are seeing DHS vigorously utilize that authority.

    Today we held a press conference at the National Press Club here in DC to try to draw attention to this problem -– and the fact that, as we showed, nearly two-thirds of the US population live within this “Constitution-Free Zone.” That’s 197.4 million people.

    We calculated this using the most recent, 2007 numbers from the U.S. Census, and released a map showing the cities and states that are enveloped by this zone. It includes some of the largest metropolitan areas in the country: New York City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. States that are completely within this Constitution-Free Zone include Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. When you say “border,” they think “all of New England.”

    The ACLU is calling on Congress “hold hearings to investigate these egregious violations of Americans’ civil liberties, and then pass new laws protecting Americans’ rights.”

    Read the full post at DailyKos to learn about two individuals’ personal experience with these overextended powers: San Diego music professor Craig Johnson, and Vince Peppard, a retiree who with his wife was stopped by the authorities on a road east of San Diego, at least 15 miles from the US border. (Here’s a video of Vince Peppard telling his story.) The 2007 Census numbers are here.

    Wired and Raw Story have coverage of the ACLU event. Read my previous posts on searches and seizures by Border Patrol.

    One Response to “ACLU: Expanding Border Powers Creating ‘Constitution-Free Zone’ That Covers Two-Thirds of Americans”

    1. Terry Says:

      The Border Patrol has over 33 permanent checkpoint installations located near nexus points for border traffic along the Southern border. These checkpoints are positioned anywhere between 25 and 100 miles of an international border. Additionally, the agency utilizes numerous ‘temporary’ or ‘tactical’ checkpoints along secondary roads consisting of mostly domestic traffic within the same distances as the permanent checkpoints.

      For anyone interested in seeing one of these checkpoints for themselves, I’ve been documenting my experiences at a ‘tactical’ DHS checkpoint for the past several months. Videos of my encounters at the checkpoint, which is located over 40 miles North of the border along SR86 in Southern Arizona, can be found at:

      SR86 is an East-West highway that never intersects the border at any point. Full write-ups of these checkpoint encounters can be found on my blog at: