1975, winter, somewhere in the American Southwest. I am driving across a state border and there is a sign that reads “do not transport citrus fruit across state lines.” There on the side of the road is a check point with uniformed federal agents, a place to pull off, some garbage cans. I look at the oranges sitting on the floor over on the passenger side and figure … “better pull off and dump this contraband.” But then something surprising happened.
A repost from the Days of Bush. But has this problem been solved yet?
I started to pull into the checkpoint, and one of the uniformed federal agents leaned over a bit to see who was in the 10 year old Volkswagen Type 3. He saw two hippies, one with very long hair, one with somewhat longer hair. He tried to wave us on, back on to the road.
But I knew we had oranges. I knew we would be violating Federal Law if we crossed the state line, just a few yards ahead. So I continued to slow down and head over to the trash cans. Just beyond the trash cans, there was a car full of people and a couple of more uniformed federal agents. I figured “They must have oranges too.”
As I headed over to the trash cans, the agent that was waving us on became agitated and started pointing towards the road with one hand and indicating with the other that we should head out that way. I also noticed that there were a LOT of people in that car over there, and that it was an even older and more beat up car than the one I was driving.
Whatever, I was heading for the trash can. No violation of Federal Law for me. Uh unh.
Now one or two of the Well Armed Uniformed Federal Officers over by the other car, which I now perceived as being full of rather scared Mexican looking people, were also waving me away. So I rolled down my window and said: “I have oranges” … puzzled look from the Federali … “Organges!” (I’m holding up the bag.)
“We’re not checking oranges today, sir, just get back on the road and have a nice day…”
One last look at the extended family perhaps visiting from Mexico as they peered hopelessly out the window of their car…. And I drove away, puzzled.
That was my first time. Eventually, I got used to it. I am not Hispanic so I just drive by the ‘fruit’ checkpoints at which the jack-booted Uniformed Federal Agents pull over, harass, and perhaps occasionally arrest (and who knows what else) the Hispanic people.
I always wondered what could possibly be the basis for this kind of search and seizure authority. Back in those days, there were Medfly scares, but I don’t think Mexican families are more likely to carry Medflies than oranges are. But today, I learned something new about this.
Apparently, it has become common practice for the US Border Patrol to consider any spot of land within 100 miles of a federal border, which I think sometimes includes inland waterways (and thus would run up major rivers some distance) to be within the zone that Fourth Amendment rights are suspended.
It turns out that two thirds of the American population lives within this zone. Two thirds. Two hundred million of the three hundred million of us do not have fourth amendment rights anymore.
Here are the details on that little problem.
And while you are checking that out, read about the US government plans to develop teams of robots designed to track down and capture unwilling individuals. Unwilling in what way you may ask? Don’t ask questions like that. They’ll take you over behind the trash cans if you ask questions like that.