After the “Muslim Ban” went into effect, we were flooded with reports of overzealous Customs and Border Patrol agents interpreting the law the way they wanted, resisting court orders, and detaining people while past the point of legitimacy. In other words, they were acting like either rogue agents or a rogue agency–or rather, an agency with a very specific loyalty, and one that didn’t consider itself beholden to the court.
That loyalty, of course, is to Donald Trump. The CBP didn’t endorse Trump, though the Union for Border Patrol Agents did, very controversially. Though the CBP is officially non-political, it is clear that they lean very far right, and have been “rogue”, leading people to call them the most “out of control” law-enforcement agency.
But, as we said, one day you’re rogue, the next vogue. The undemocratic victory of Donald Trump has given them the green light they need, and his executive orders are opening the door. This morning, we’re hearing reports of border patrol agents checking “documents”, proof of citizenship, on domestic flights in domestic airports.
This is a “papers, please” sort of thing. To be clear, the CBP is acting within their jurisdiction.
The authority for this is based on the Immigration and Nationality Act 287(a)(3) and copied in 8 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 287 (a)(3), which states that Immigration Officers, without a warrant, may “within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States…board and search for aliens in any vessel within the territorial waters of the United States and any railcar, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle. 8 CFR 287 (a)(1) defines reasonable distance as 100 air miles from the border.
But there is a difference between having the authority, and having actual cause to do so. Have you ever had your “documents” checked on a domestic flight before? In a domestic airport? I know I haven’t. I don’t even know what to present: my driver’s license?
This isn’t just intimidation, though it is also that. It’s the muscle-flexing of the new world order. Hyperempowered white nationalists will extend their reach to the full range of the law, and possibly beyond. Or maybe the laws will change and that 100 miles becomes 500. This will only get worse if Trump is able to hire his 10,000 new CBP and 5000 new ICE agents (which is
This will only get worse if Trump is able to hire his 10,000 new CBP and 5000 new ICE agents (which is far from a done deal). Who do you think is going to be applying for Trump’s ICE? Majority civil libertarians, or failed cops with a chip on their shoulders, latent white nationalists with statutes behind them.
To say this is a ‘make or break’ moment is an exaggeration, sure. But it is dangerous. Once we start accepting having our papers checked at any airport, what else do we accept? What happens when a law enforcement agency is loyal to the President, and not to the country? What happens when everyone is the enemy?
Democracies don’t die at the ballot booth. They die when your citizenship hinges on the mood of the armed and empowered.