COMPLAINT: Tucson engineer challenges checkpoint

Published: Apr. 18, 2018 at 9:58 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 18, 2018 at 6:10 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Terry Bressi estimates he has stopped at the Border Patrol checkpoint on State Route 86 near Three Points more than 400 times. He can't avoid it on his way home from working at Kitt Peak.

Bressi, a voice of opposition to checkpoints in general, uses multiple cameras to record his interactions. What was captured during a stop in April 2017 will be submitted as evidence, according to Bressi.

He's filed a complaint in U.S. District Court naming Pima County Board of Supervisors, Pima County Sheriff's Department and several individual deputies and Border Patrol agents.

"They treat my exercise of my rights in a lawful, respectful fashion, as a direct threat to them and they will go out of their way to raise the stakes," said Bressi.

The issue driving his complaint is the presence of local law enforcement at the federal checkpoint. Bressi described the incident that served as his final straw.

He refused to answer any questions from the Border Patrol, like he typically does. When a sheriff's deputy walked up to his vehicle, Bressi said he asked about Operation Stone Garden. He said the deputy acknowledged being at the checkpoint because of the federal gr ant money, then followed him as agents waved him through.

"During this stop I go, 'What are you stopping me for, what's the basis for this interaction?'," he said. "And he had refused to tell me...what was going on."

Bressi said it all ended with him being charged for obstructing a roadway. The same roadway he was idling in for the checkpoint. He fought the charges, which were later d ropped.

He cites two rulings from the U.S. Supreme court in the complaint. U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte essentially allowed Border Patrol to establish fixed checkpoints in roadways for the purpose of immigration checkpoints.

City of Indianapolis v Edmon states that local law enforcement cannot establish a roadblock for the vague purpose of stopping criminal activity.

In Bressi's opinion, having a sheriff's deputy enforcing local laws at a federal immigration checkpoint blurs the boundaries of the two agencies and the rules that regulate them.

"It's very clear that those two are working closely together at all levels here," he said.

The Pima County Sheriff's Department, U.S. Border Patrol Tucson Sector and U.S. Attorney's Office in Tucson all declined to comment.

Years ago, Bressi filed a complaint against the Tohono O'odham Police for a checkpoint that included U.S. Customs and U.S. Border Patrol. He eventually won the case, but that doesn't change his expectations for his latest filing.

"I'm suing the federal government," he said. "That's an uphill battle."

He's not the only one. The ACLU has filed multiple complaints in recent years for people concerned about their treatment at checkpoints. Residents living near Arivaca and Amado have also challenged their right to monitor a checkpoint in their community.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors this year originally voted down the renewal of gr ant money for Operation Stone Garden. The elected leaders scheduled a second vote to reassess the issue and approved the money.

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