Border residents demand end to Arivaca checkpoint
Demanding accountability and oversight, residents from Arivaca, Ariz., marched to Border Patrol headquarters in Tucson on Wednesday to protest the checkpoint on Interstate 19 just north of the town.
Around 30 people marched across East Golf Links at Swan Road before talking to media just outside of the facility’s fence line. Leesa Jacobson, an Arivaca resident, read a statement calling on the Border Patrol to abandon the checkpoint, citing rights violations, harassment and unwarranted searches.
The checkpoint was established six years ago as a temporary measure, but in 2010 Customs and Border Protection spent $1.5 million on a 100-by-115-foot canopy that straddles the northbound lanes of the highway.
The march was a follow-up to a protest on Dec. 8, when more than 100 residents and supporters marched from two directions, forcing the closure of the checkpoint. During the protest, the group submitted a petition to Tucson Sector Chief Manuel Padilla, as well as letters to members of Congress. According to Jacobson, Padilla has not responded to the complaint.
In the tiny town of around 600 people, more than a third signed the petition.
“We really need them to listen to people who live in this border community,” said Jacobson, “Our lives are diminished by a policy that has no purpose.”
Residents will follow the march with a demand that Congress hold hearings on impact of the checkpoints in Arizona and the creation of a program for residents to monitor border agents at the checkpoint to gather data about stops, something they say the agency doesn’t not appear to do.
“Our message is this,” she said. “Border Patrol, we will be watching you.”
“The checkpoint has concentrated the border agents in one spot,” said Peter Ragan, “They used to cruise around the community. Now, they don’t seem to be dealing with immigration, but with regular law enforcement.”
Ragan said he’s been stopped multiple times by agents at the checkpoint and his vehicle was searched twice. Joe and Susan Ramsey, also residents, agreed, calling stops “an arbitrary experience.”
And, since many services, including grocery stores are north, residents must have daily contact with border agents.
On Jan. 15, the Arizona ACLU submitted a complaint citing 15 incidents of misconduct at checkpoints in Arizona, including unconstitutional searches and seizures, racial profiling and excessive use of force.
There are 11 checkpoints in Arizona and, according to a recent review of documents by the Arizona Republic, Border Patrol operates 128 checkpoints nationwide.
Later in the day, newly minted DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson arrived at the Tucson station after a tour of the border, and spoke to the press. “I think it’s crucial for law enforcement to have accountability and credibility in the areas in which they operate,” he said.