An interesting piece posted by the New York Times really highlights how very old law has tremendous applicability today. The law I refer to is the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and its application is at the forefront of the current hotly contested debate surrounding border security and immigration policy, specifically border checkpoints and border searches and seizures.
Put simply, the Fourth Amendment makes illegal searches and seizures not supported by probable cause and not executed via a warrant. Of course there are long established exceptions to this general rule, such as in emergency situations, if incriminating and illegal items are in plain view, etc. But as the New York Times piece highlights, when it comes to "security," specifically border security, long established Fourth Amendment law gets thrown out the window. In fact, so many of our sacred liberties and rights get thrown to the waste side when violated in the name of "security."
Obviously national security is of the upmost importance but so is our rights and liberties, such as not being subject to arbitrary and illegal police conduct.
In the small town of Arivaca, Arizona, there is a border checkpoint permanently established on the border of town. Arivaca is not on the border per se, it is approximately 20 miles away from the Mexico/U.S. border. Yet, American citizens in Arivaca must pass through the checkpoint EACH time the leave or arrive in town. The rationale behind the checkpoint is to make sure no one comes or goes that is not a U.S. citizen or who is not lawfully present in the United States. In theory that sounds find, after all we have a strong interest in securing the border. But should we do so at the peril of lawfully present individuals' rights and liberties? That is, are we comfortable allowing police, in this case Border Patrol, to stop EVERYONE for the sake of finding illegal immigrants? As the video highlights, some of these encounters are quite stressful for the individuals, with agents forcing them out of their car and subjecting them to illegal searches and seizures.
I do not have a right answer to this issue; in fact, no one does. The issue exists on a sliding scale with security on one end and personal liberty on the other. Everyone's opinion falls somewhere on that scale. As a society we must all collectively decide where the line is drawn.