An English teacher from San Diego, California, released a series of videos depicting her confrontation with Border Patrol agents, and they have all gone viral. The tense exchange is hard to watch, but quite revealing.
Later, teacher Shane Parmely said she decided to refuse to answer the agents' questions out of solidarity with her friends, whose children are often aggressively interrogated under the same circumstances.
As Parmely was stopped at a checkpoint in New Mexico, she was asked by an agent if she was an American citizen.
She then asked the agents, “[a]re we crossing a border? I've never been asked if I'm a citizen before when I'm traveling down the road.”
Addressing someone in the back seat, she is seen saying “I'm not answering.”
She then tells the agent, “You can ask me. I don't have to answer.”
That's when the agent tells her she's “required to answer an immigration question,” but not required to answer other questions. She then asks the official if she can go or if she's being detained, to which he replies: “You are being detained, ma'am.”
When asked what law says she's required to answer if she's a U.S. citizen, the agent points to a card he takes from his wallet referring to the Supreme Court case United States v. Martinez-Fuerte.
The 1976 ruling is used to justify Border Patrol checkpoints within 100 miles of the Mexican border, rendering the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution useless if you're stopped at one of these checkpoints.
Asking the agent if he would have let her go if she had just come through saying she was a citizen, he answered that if the “agent is justified by the answer, then yes.”
“So if I have an accent, and I’m brown, can I just say, 'Yes,' and go ahead or do I have to prove it? I have a bunch of teacher friends who are sick of their kids being discriminated against,” she then said.
The agent then replied: “OK, I’m not discriminating against anybody.”
After the tense exchange, the teacher was detained for an hour. At some point, she said, her son asked agents to use the bathroom, to which an agent replied he could only do so if his mother answered if she was a citizen. Another agent reportedly escorted the child to the bathroom later.
After being let go, she said she never answered if she was a citizen or not.
In a statement, Border Patrol spokesperson Mark Endicott said agents may detain a driver “for a reasonable amount of time until he or she can make a determination regarding the occupant’s immigration status.” Still, officials rarely discuss the fact that the 1976 Supreme Court decision does nothing to address the blatantly anti-Fourth Amendment sentiment contained in its ruling.
Unless we have a broader discussion about how United States v. Martinez-Fuerte gutted the constitution, we are never going to be able to find a solution to the abuse perpetrated by so many border agents.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria