ACLU report highlights issues with Border Patrol checkpoints

Published: Oct. 15, 2015 at 11:33 PM MST|Updated: Dec. 11, 2015 at 12:55 AM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A new report from the ACLU claims that civil liberty complaints made against Border Patrol agents are rarely investigated, and that a low percentage of apprehensions are actually made at interior checkpoints across southern Arizona.

The report, compiled from public records requests made by the organization, includes roughly 140 different incidents in Tucson and Yuma sectors from 2011-2014 where people believed their rights were violated.

James Duff Lyall with ACLU of Arizona, a co-author of the report, said what's been published is only the information that Border Patrol has provided.

He believes there are more cases that either haven't been reported or haven't been published.

He added that it also only covers two sectors of the entire agency.

"The people and Congress don't realize how widespread this is," Lyall said.

The report recommends that Border Patrol establish a new way to keep track of stops made by agents, even if they don't result in an arrest or apprehension.

"I just want them gone," Arivaca resident Carlota Wray said about the interior checkpoint set up on Arivaca Road. "I want them to leave this community alone."

Wray joined People Helping People in the group's effort to monitor the checkpoint from a citizen standpoint.

Wray, who believes she is questioned too much because of her skin color, said she stopped on the road one night to call her daughter, when two agents blocked her vehicle and asked her what she was doing in the area.

She wasn't arrested, but Wray said the late-night exchange left her feeling uneasy about driving to and from her own neighborhood.

"I'm more afraid than safe," she said. "I don't feel safe with them around, with guns in the middle of the night, getting stopped and blocked on my road."

Karl Hoffman, who hangs a banner outside of his home in support of the checkpoint, said he's thankful to have the Border Patrol in the area because the nearest sheriff's substation is almost an hour's drive from Arivaca.

He said the general area feels much different since the interior checkpoint went into place approximately seven years ago.

"It stopped the crime in its tracks," Hoffman said. "And this became a very peaceful and law-abiding community."

More than 800 apprehensions at checkpoints accounted for less than 1 percent of the Tucson sector's total apprehensions in fiscal year 2013.

That's less than the national average for the agency, according to ACLU's report.

In calendar year 2013, nine of the Tucson Sector's 23 checkpoints did not arrest a single deportable individual, according to the report.

"I don't see the reason why they're there," Wray said. "I just believe that our tax money is wasted."

Hoffman disagrees.

He said whatever the cost of having a checkpoint on Arivaca Road is, it is worth it, regardless of how many arrests or apprehensions are made.

"The fact that they're not making any apprehensions means they're doing their job," he said. "The road used to be thick with drug traffic and people smuggling, so they've stopped it."

Border Patrol did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Copyright 2015 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.