Overzealous border patrol agents are continuing a trend of targeting passengers using public transit to find undocumented immigrants.
Recently, border patrol stormed a Florida Greyhound bus asking riders to show proof of residency and citizenship. On the heels of that incident, passengers on an Amtrak train in Syracuse, New York, experienced a similar ordeal.
According to local NBC affiliate WHEC, a handful of people were questioned on the train, which was almost 100 miles away from the nearest border crossing, prompting riders to question if they were racially profiled and whether their civil rights were infringed upon.
“The first officer walked into the car, and he was just like, ‘hey... are you an American citizen,’” recounted Corey El, who was traveling from New York to Niagara Falls to visit friends and relatives.
El answered that he was, indeed, a citizen.
“As he started to walk away, I said, ‘I feel like this is not a legal thing for you to do,’ and he just kind of stared at me and ignored me," El added. “He continued to walk down and picked out random people.”
El’s instincts that something wasn’t right compelled him to take out his cellphone and begin recording the agent harassing other passengers, asking them the same question he was asked. He posted the video to social media, and it quickly went viral, garnering hundreds of thousands of views.
As WHEC notes, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution does protect Americans from random searches, however, it seems that is not applicable if you’re within certain proximity of a border crossing.
A Border Patrol spokesman said: “Although most Border Patrol work is conducted in the immediate border area, agents have broad law enforcement authorities, including the authority to question individuals, make arrests, and take and consider evidence. The Immigration and Nationality Act 287(a)(3) and 8 USC 1357 state that Immigration Officers, without a warrant, may; within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States ... board and search for aliens in any vessel within the territorial waters of the United States and any railcar, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle.’ 8 CFR 287 (a)(1) defines reasonable distance as 100 air miles from the border.”
Since Syracuse is 97 miles from the closest Canadian border crossing, the agents were, apparently, within their boundaries to search the train.
Additionally, enforcement actions that occur away from the border within the agents' jurisdiction are “performed in direct support of immediate border enforcement efforts and as a means of preventing smuggling and criminal organizations from exploiting existing transportation hubs to travel to the interior of the United States.”
To put it plainly, these agents have the power and the means to harass people in this manner so long as they claim to be doing so under the guise of these policies.
“They can pretty much do anything they want to,” said Anthony Guidice, an immigration attorney in Rochester. “If you piss them off they can search you, cuff you, put you into custody and keep you there for 24 hours, just to teach you a lesson if you get uppity with them — doesn’t matter if you’re an American citizen or not.”
Guidice also highlighted the point that most undocumented immigrants can't get drivers licenses so they use public transportation, which is why Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol often target trains, buses, and airports.
Need we remind you that this guerrilla style search and seizure strategy is quite reminiscent of the tactics used by the Gestapo of Nazi Germany? If you recall, President Donald Trump spoke about establishing a similar "humane deportation force" while on the campaign trail.
"You're going to have a deportation force, and you're going to do it humanely and you're going to bring the country — and, frankly, the people, because you have some excellent, wonderful people, some fantastic people that have been here for a long period of time," Trump said at the time to MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski.
For people who allowed those dangerous foreshadowing remarks Trump made to slip through the cracks or those who thought he wouldn't actually be able to deliver on his outlandish campaign promises, take a look at what's happening now. Everything we feared about a Trump presidency is becoming our reality.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS