Our Founding Fathers wrote into the Bill of Rights a prohibition against unreasonable search and seizures. This means that if you're just driving around, minding your own business, the police can't pull you over without some suspicion of wrongdoing. And THAT means they can't block a road and search the car of anyone who happens along.
Until the USA/PATRIOT act allowed the Border Patrol to do just that ... within 100 miles of a border.
Most American citizens live within 100 miles of the coast or some other border. This is because most of our large metropolitan areas are ports. The ENTIRE STATE OF Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Florida and Hawaii are within 100 miles of a border - see the map here.
The USA/PATRIOT Act effectively suspended part of our Constitution for most Americans. It's probably unConstitutional, but finding a citizen willing to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court is difficult.
Recently a guy I know, Paul Richmond, helped a client roadblocked by the Border Patrol near the Hood Canal Bridge. No-one who knows the area would think it's an international border, but we're talking the Border Patrol here ... an out-of-control organization apparently looking to boost its arrest statistics. According to a recent article in the Seattle P-I, So far, it's stopped 24,524 vehicles and taken 81 illegal immigrants into custody, for a success rate of 0.0033. This makes it by far one of the least effectual crime-prevention efforts ever; they'd be better off buying lottery tickets.
It's worth noting, from the article, that Border Patrol roadblocks claim the ability to go all through your car because they're, you know, Border Patrol. Every other law-enforcement officer has to have a reason to search your car, but the B.P. does it because they can.
Of course, the ineffectuality of the Border Patrol is not the real issue; the real issue is the suspension of our Constitution. Allowing the police to search you any time they want may make us safer from druggies and terrorists, but it doesn't make us safer from our government.
John Bates, Border Patrol chief in charge of the Northwest, has announce his firm commitment to continue violating our Constitution.
"These are immigration checkpoints. However, if we encounter other violations of law, we are not going to turn our back on them."It makes you wonder: if these really are immigration checkpoints, why do they need to search the interior of an ordinary car? Can't you tell if there's an immigrant hiding in the car by shining your flashlight around? How tiny are the immigrants they're looking for?
BTW good luck fighting the Border Patrol in court; they have professional staff paid for with your tax dollars; you have to hire a lawyer on your own dime. And you're most unlikely to get your costs paid for even if you win. Richmond's client was lucky to find a representative with the time and resources to help out; if the economy continues to sicken, don't expect there to be more legal professionals with the time and money to come to your aid.