The US Border Patrol is considered one of the most important elements of America’s national security infrastructure. But the Border Patrol doesn’t operate the same in all of its many locations around the country. Agents who are stationed at airports and other locations along the southern border of the United States have a bit of a different modus operandi than those at other locations. This was evidenced during a recent incident involving Pulitzer Prize winner and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas when the former journalist was detained at an airport in south Texas following questioning by Border Patrol agents regarding his citizenship status.
Unlike Border Patrol agents in other locations, those stationed at airports within 100 miles of the border work closely with the Transportation Security Administration and typically do not wear uniforms. They help to monitor passengers flying within the United States and more often than not do not have offices within the airports in which they work. They assist TSA agents in checking the various forms of identification that are required by passengers including green card, travel visas, and passports to determine the authenticity of these documents and subsequently of the identities of the individuals carrying them.
When Mr. Vargas arrived at McAllen/Miller International Airport in McAllen, Texas, just a few miles from the southern border, agents noticed that he did not have any kind of US government-issued identification. He only had his passport from the Philippines – his native country – and admitted to agents that he was in the United States illegally. After being arrested, he was released but not before being served with a notice to appear before a judge in immigration court at a future date.
But airports are not the only locations that Border Patrol agents operate checkpoints. They are also responsible for running checkpoints all over the southwestern United States where illegal border crossings have become a serious issue over the last several years as well as at locations in several northern states like Washington. Most of the inland checkpoint locations are set up along highways and smaller roads, many of which have become the subject of resident protest because of what is perceived as overzealous agent protocol. Residents of Arivaca, Arizona, for example, have complained and have staged several protests about the Border Patrol’s requirement that residents pass through the checkpoint there every time they leave town.
The problem with the situation in Arivaca, residents say, is that they leave town on a daily basis because the town itself does not have its own schools or supermarkets. Additionally, the vast majority of the residents have jobs outside the town so simply commuting to and from their places of employment means having to go through the routine at the checkpoints at least twice per day.
The situation with the US Border patrol has reached a fever pitch in terms of the agency’s relations with citizens located near its checkpoints and many feel that situations like that of Jose Vargas are starting to reach epidemic proportions. If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding an immigration issue, please contact the Austin immigration attorney at the Lyttle Law Firm by visiting their website or call their offices at 512-215-5225.