Monday, April 28, 2014

Arizona vacation with Mom: Land of the free???

Mar 30 2013: Ft Stockton TX to Deming NM

This morning I noticed a very concerned camper opening all the compartments on his motor coach and sticking his head into each one. When he saw me he came over and asked if I smelled something burning because he did but couldn’t find what it was. I pointed out that the creosote was in bloom and that’s what he was smelling. I’m sure it was a scary few minutes for him waking up and thinking his coach was on fire!

Today was all about the Chihuahua desert, the city of El Paso, (With no good way to avoid going right through downtown because the Franklin mountains force all roads down to a narrow gap between the southern end of the mountains and the Mexican border.) the dairy operations along the west side of I10 between El Paso and Las Cruses feeding on the hay grown down along the Rio Grande, border patrol and so called ‘interior border control checkpoints’.

This may sound like sour grapes, but as a citizen of this country I really resent being forcibly scanned, sniffed, photographed, computer checked; and then after all that, grilled about where I’m from and where I’m going. I once even had my van searched. All this by armed border patrol officers yet I was doing nothing but traveling entirely within the borders of my own country. Sounds like something you’d expect in Nazi occupied France or from the warlords of Somalia.

As for the time I was removed from my van while it was searched: The Supreme Court has ruled that Border Patrol has the authority to ask questions such as what is your citizenship, where have you been, where are you going, etc., but they have also ruled that, as per the 5th amendment, anybody already within our borders, citizen or not, has the right to decline to answer.  When asked my citizenship at one of these abominations I will answer but when they ask where I’ve been or where I’m going that’s none of their business and I decline to answer. The Supreme Court has clearly ruled that refusing to answer can not be construed as probable cause and detaining and/or searching a person or their property based  solely on them declining to answer questions is illegal. Apparently the officers dealing with me that day didn’t get that memo, and they didn’t much appreciate me informing them that they were breaking the law either. That whole mess turned into a two hour delay, most of it standing out in the hot sun.

(Since that experience I have wimped out and now I just lie instead of declining to answer, which, unlike declining to answer, is actually a crime! But just like when anybody asks for my mother’s maiden name – which is public record and easy to get so is useless as a security measure anyway – , my birthday – which, along with my name, is all anybody needs to get access to my medical records over the phone –, or asks for my zip code or phone number at a cash register, I give a fake answer. It keeps them happy and I’m not giving up any real information.)

When heading westbound on I10 between Las Cruses and Deming, (or eastbound just west of Sierra Blanca TX, or northbound on US70 or US54 just south of Alamogordo NM or – well, you get the idea.) there’s a mandatory checkpoint with electronic sensors and scanners and drug sniffing dogs and unsmiling armed men in uniforms and you have no choice but to submit to the indignity. It’s bad enough to go through US customs and immigration when re-entering the country (By the way, world travelers will universally tell you that entering the US, citizen or not, is worse than pretty much any other country.) but when I’m simply traveling within the borders??? And to make it worse, they’re using my tax dollars to pay for all this!! And what about all the citizens of this country that live in the no-man's zone within 100 miles of the border where border patrol is allowed to operate these checkpoints? Just taking San Diego, Las Cruses and El Paso alone that's 2 million citizens that not allowed to go anywhere else in their own country without having to submit to one of these checks.  Does that sound right to you??

This map posted on Wikipedia shows 32 permanent 'internal checkpoints'
along the southwest border as of 2009 that we as citizens of this country have
to submit to. (Today there are 71 of them country wide.)
Notice that Arizona has almost none, that's because they made it illegal to set up
permanent checkpoints within the Tucson sector so border patrol
uses what they call 'tactical' checkpoints instead. Still a checkpoint, but one in a truck
that can be quickly set up and taken down therefor not considered permanent.

Anyway – enough ranting – I made it through the checkpoint and ended up in Deming NM for the night in one of the many, many campgrounds available in this little town. (I think they claim something like 27 campgrounds in a town of 15,000 people.)

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