The Gulf Today - - OPINION -

Ayear af­ter the end of World War II, Congress qui­etly amended the Im­mi­gra­tion and Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Act to grant bor­der agents wide lat­i­tude to in­ter­ro­gate peo­ple they sus­pected were in the coun­try il­le­gally, pro­vided that the agents were “within a rea­son­able dis­tance from any ex­ter­nal bound­ary of the United States.” Congress let the Jus­tice Depart­ment de­ter­mine what “rea­son­able dis­tance” meant, and in 1953 Atty. Gen. Her­bert Brownell Jr. set it at 100 miles. There was no pub­lic dis­cus­sion of why he picked that dis­tance. Yet even at the time of the 1946 amend­ment, mem­bers of Congress raised con­cerns about grant­ing such ex­tra­or­di­nary power to bor­der agents to set up check­points, to stop peo­ple on a mere sus­pi­cion and to freely en­ter pri­vate lands (though not build­ings) within 25 air miles of the bor­der. But the de­sire to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion won out. Courts later con­curred, rul­ing that the gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­est in en­forc­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws out­weighed 4th Amend­ment pro­tec­tions against “un­rea­son­able searches and seizures.” They al­lowed agents to ques­tion some­one if they had a “rea­son­able sus­pi­cion” that the per­son might be here il­le­gally, rather than the prob­a­ble cause stan­dard used in crim­i­nal cases. That set the ta­ble for the cur­rent Bor­der Pa­trol prac­tice of main­tain­ing three dozen per­ma­nent check­points and dozens more tem­po­rary check­points on high­ways within 100 miles of the south­west bor­der, with ad­di­tional check­points sim­i­larly scat­tered in the north­ern tier of states.

Los An­ge­les Times

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