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John Whitehead's Commentary

The Danger Within: Border Patrol Is Turning America Into a Constitution-Free Zone [SHORT]

John Whitehead

How far would you really go to secure the nation’s borders against illegal aliens?

Would you give the government limitless amounts of money to fight yet another endless war? Surround the entire country with concrete walls and barbed wire? Empower border police to do whatever it takes to crack down on illegal immigrants, even if it means violating their human rights? Hold your nose and tolerate all manner of abuses in name of national security?

Would you allow government agents to trample on the rights of anyone who gets in their way, including legal citizens? Relinquish some of your freedoms in exchange for the elusive promise of non-porous borders? Submit to a national ID card that allows the government to target individuals and groups as it chooses in order to identify those who do not “belong”? Turn a blind eye to private prisons and detainment camps that profit off the forced labor of its detainees?

Would you turn your backs on every constitutional principle for which our founders fought and died in exchange for empty campaign promises of elusive safety by fast-talking politicians?

This is the devil’s bargain that the U.S. government demands of its people.

These devilish deals have been foisted upon “we the people” before.

Every decade or so, the government makes the case for expanding its wartime powers and curtailing the citizenry’s freedom—in the war on terrorism, war on drugs, war on communism, war on foreigners, war on extremism, war on dissidents, war on peace activists, war on anti-government speech, etc.—all for the sake of national security, of course, and as expected, the American people fall in line.

This time around, the government wants us to buy into the fiction that this war on illegal aliens is so necessary for national security that we should be grateful when roving bands of border patrol agents, flexing their muscles far beyond the nation’s borders, exercise their right to disregard the Constitution at every turn.

Except these border patrol cops aren’t just disregarding the Constitution.

They’re trampling all over the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits the government from carrying out egregious warrantless searches and seizures without probable cause.

As part of the government’s so-called crackdown on illegal immigration, drugs and trafficking, its border patrol cops are expanding their reach, roaming further afield and subjecting greater numbers of Americans to warrantless searches, ID checkpoints, transportation checks, and even surveillance on private property far beyond the boundaries of the borderlands.

That so-called border, once a thin borderline, is now an ever-thickening band spreading deeper and deeper inside the country.

Consequently, nearly 66% of Americans (2/3 of the U.S. population, 197.4 million people) now live within a 100-mile-deep, Constitution-free zone.

In this authoritarian reshaping of America, you’d better watch where you roam and ramble, because you could find yourself wandering into the government’s ever-expanding, Constitution-free zone where freedom is off-limits and government agents have all the power and “we the people” have none.

As journalist Todd Miller explains, the government has turned the nation’s expanding border regions into “a ripe place to experiment with tearing apart the Constitution, a place where not just undocumented border-crossers, but millions of borderland residents have become the targets of continual surveillance.”

In much the same way that police across the country have been schooled in the art of sidestepping the Constitution, border cops have also been drilled in the art of “anything goes” in the name of national security.

In fact, border cops even have a checklist of “possible behaviors” that warrant overriding the Constitution and subjecting individuals—including American citizens—to stops, searches, seizures, interrogations and arrests.

For instance, if you’re driving a vehicle that to a border cop looks unusual in some way, you can be stopped.

If your passengers look dirty or unusual, you can be stopped.

If you’re traveling on a public road that smugglers and other criminals may have traveled, you can be stopped.

If you’re not driving in the same direction as other cars, you can be stopped.

If your vehicle is from out of town, wherever that might be, you can be stopped.

If you’re driving a make of car that criminal-types have also driven, you can be stopped.

If you’re driving during a time of day or night that border cops find suspicious, you can be stopped.

If you’re driving in a motorcade or with another vehicle, you can be stopped.

If your car appears dusty, you can be stopped.

If you slow down after seeing a cop, you can be stopped.

Are you starting to get the picture yet?

This isn’t about illegal aliens and border crossings at all.

It’s a test to see how hard “we the people” will fight to hold onto what remains of our freedoms.

If this is a test, we’re failing abysmally.

While the border wall debate certainly stirs up, divides and distracts the populace, expanding the government’s police powers is not the answer.

For that matter, building a border wall is unlikely to do much to deter illegal immigrants from getting into this country (they will just continue to tunnel under border walls or go around them as they have been doing), it won’t thwart drug traffickers (they already use legal ports of entry and corrupt government agents as conduits to funnel their drugs into the country), and it certainly won’t make America any safer from its most pressing threat—that is, government agents armed with totalitarian powers.

It will, however, expand the reach of the police state under our noses.

It’s time “we the people” put our house in order.

Just look at the mess we’re in right now: the longest government shutdown in history, political theatrics that keep the populace distracted while the police state clamps down, an economy that is disintegrating before our eyes, a surveillance state that is gearing up for total control, an aging national infrastructure that is falling apart, an appalling lack of leaders with moral backbones and civic knowledge, and a government that grows more authoritarian with every passing day.

The problem is not that the U.S. is being invaded by rapists, thieves and cold-blooded killers.

Rather, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the problem is that the U.S. government is overrun with rapists, thieves and cold-blooded killers who are on the government payroll, and there’s no border wall big enough to protect us from these ruffians in our midst.

WC: 1078


Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at Whitehead can be contacted at

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