What Country Are We In Anyway?

When we visited Big Bend National Park in Texas a few years back, we encountered four U.S. Border Patrol roadblocks between El Paso and the park.  All cars along Interstate-10 or one of the other major highways are funneled off the road through a Border Patrol checkpoint.  To maintain the element of surprise, stations are located about every 50 miles along the highway, and sometimes they are open and sometimes not.

Border Patrol Checkpoint. Copyright © Chris Dag. Image used under Creative Commons 2.0 License.

A Border Patrol agent approaches the driver’s window, while sometimes another agent walks a dog around your vehicle.  I assume they are looking for illegal aliens and/or illegal drugs.  The agent usually opens with the same question: Are you a U.S. Citizen?  The smart ass in me wants to respond with one of the following:

  • No speaka da Englaise.
  • ¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!
  • Does the indignation in my voice indicate my response?

I’m not doing anything wrong so they cannot arrest me, but they can certainly detain me and make my life hell for a few hours.  So I just bite my tongue and answer, “Yes, Sir.” 

From the last snarky response in the list above, you may be able to tell that I am against these Border Patrol checkpoints.  In fact, I am firmly against ALL roadblocks except in case of emergency.  In my opinion, roadblocks are acceptable if there’s an Amber Alert, armed and dangerous felon on the loose, or potential terrorist threat.  But I am very much against roadblocks for the purpose of sniffing out crime.  There should be no Border Patrol stops on U.S. highways, no sobriety checkpoints, surprise vehicle inspections, etc. 

Living in America should mean that you can walk freely down the street and not worry about having to stop and show your papers, or drive down the road and not worry about having to stop and show your license.  We are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.  But roadblocks assume you are guilty until you prove you are innocent.

One might argue that the inconvenience and loss of freedom from roadblocks is offset by the greater good of preventing some crime.  But if that’s true, then we could prevent even more crime by stopping every person on every street, frisking them, performing deep cavity searches, giving them lie detector tests, and subjecting everyone to even more intrusive inspections to ensure nobody is doing anything wrong or even thinking about it.  So where does it stop before we become North Korea or China?

These Border Patrol roadblocks wouldn’t even be necessary if our federal government would simply start enforcing our borders.  Nearly every other country has airtight borders.  Even a third-world country like Iran has the ability to detect three hikers stepping a few feet over their unmarked border dozens of miles from the nearest checkpoint.  Yet America is the richest, most advanced country on Earth, and our borders are like a sieve.  It’s a lack of will in Washington.  But since Congress is unable to balance our budget or produce a decent energy plan, I shouldn’t hold out hope that they could accomplish something as simple yet nuanced as border control and immigration reform.

The funny thing is, we drove 880 miles along I-10 in Texas and didn’t encounter a single roadblock.  I was telling Theresa how disappointed I was, because I was hoping to get all worked up again so I could write this article for our TNTRV blog.  But then a few minutes later we hit a roadblock on US 54 in New Mexico.  Yes, officer, I’m an American citizen driving on an American highway, and it pisses me off that I have to stop and prove it.  Can I go now?

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