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.
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.