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Checking the Checkpoints: Az's Border Patrol sites

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Checking the Checkpoints: Az's Border Patrol sites

Join with our other backers and pledge your support for quality border reporting today — back us on Beacon Reader and help make this effort happen.

We'll take a photo and video tour of every one of Arizona's 11 Border Patrol checkpoints, keeping an eye on whether they're effective — or an intrusion.

Back this project and’s team will visit all 11 of the Border Patrol checkpoints in Arizona in one day to show in dramatic fashion how checkpoints isolate rural communities and how residents live with daily interactions with Border Patrol. By law, BP can conduct warrantless seizures within "100 air miles" of the U.S. border, but the ACLU has alleged racial profiling by agents.


Just 20 miles north of the Arizona-Mexico border, a school bus that carries children from the tiny town of Arivaca to a nearby school pulls into a Border Patrol checkpoint and stops for a few minutes.

One of the agents talks to the bus driver, while another walks around the vehicle before waving it on.

It's an everyday occurrence that disturbs Leesa Jacobson, an activist with People Helping People, a group that has dedicated more than a year of effort trying to remove the Border Patrol checkpoint that she says has become the site of racial profiling, excessive force, and unconstitutional searches and seizures.

In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union submitted a formal complaint, arguing that in at least a dozen incidents, people passing through the checkpoints faced misconduct by agents and violations of their civil rights.

The group PHP decided to launch a observation program that found a high-likelihood that agents were racially-profiling those who went through the checkpoint.

The checkpoint near Arivaca is just one of 11 checkpoints in Arizona, and one of more than 100 across the United States, hugging U.S. land borders. In Arizona, the checkpoints are strategically located, sitting on state highways that run north from the U.S.-Mexico border, but they also carve the state into sections where residents must encounter federal agents on a daily basis as they go about their lives.

By law, the Border Patrol is allowed to conduct warrantless seizures within "100 air miles" of the U.S. border. The ACLU points out that with coasts included, this encompasses most of the American population.

The Border Patrol defends the checkpoints as vital to a larger strategy, arguing that stops create a "second layer of defense," allowing the agency to stop the smuggling of people and drugs.

However, in Arizona, the agency has generally refused to release data proving this case, instead compiling seizures and arrests at the checkpoints to data for the entire Tucson and Yuma Sectors, making it difficult to ascertain just how valuable the checkpoints are for the agency's efforts.

Meanwhile, in Arivaca, residents argue that the constant presence of border agents has forced property values down, though that argument is challenged by others who believe that the checkpoint has made the town safer. will visit all 11 of the BP checkpoint in a single day, to show in dramatic fashion how the checkpoints isolate rural communities and how residents contend with daily interactions with Border Patrol agents.

We're partnering with the international journalism platform, Beacon Reader, to raise funds for this project and help assure a wide readership.

In addition to a day-long sprint across the state, we'll augment our written, photographic and video accounts of the checkpoints with background reporting, including interviews with those affected and as much data as the Department of Homeland Security will release on their effectiveness.

To do this, we need your help — we need to raise $1,000 in total by the end of March. That's a hard deadline for this crowdfunding effort, and your pledge of $10 or $25 will go far to supporting quality journalism about the borderlands. Please back our work today!

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