Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two-Thirds of Americans in "Constitution-Free" Zones


Let's hope this post becomes a blockbuster, and wakes up America.

The government is turning vast swaths of our country into a "Constitution-Free Zone" in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is allowed to exercise extraordinary authority that would not normally be permitted under the Constitution. The government says that "the border" — where there is a longstanding view that the Constitution does not fully apply — actually stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s "external boundary." And increasingly, we are seeing DHS vigorously utilize that authority.


Now what exactly is in that "external boundary"? Maybe you are, since

nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population live within this "Constitution-Free Zone." That’s 197.4 million people.


Even inland

We calculated this using the most recent, 2007 numbers from the U.S. Census, and released a map showing the cities and states that are enveloped by this zone. It includes some of the largest metropolitan areas in the country: New York City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. States that are completely within this Constitution-Free Zone include Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. When you say "border," they think "all of New England."

CBP has been setting up checkpoints far inland— on highways in states such as California, Texas and Arizona, and at ferry terminalsin Washington State. Typically, the agents ask drivers and passengers about their citizenship. People are also reporting that even after they provide passports or state driver’s licenses, CBP continues to interrogate them and try to pressure them into permitting a search.


For example,

Craig Johnson, a music professor at a San Diego college, told how he participated in a peaceful demonstration near the border to protest against the destruction of a state park so that offense could be constructed along the U.S. border. CBP agents monitored the protest and collected the license plate information of those who participated. Since this protest, Mr. Johnson has twice crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and, each time, he has been pulled aside for additional screening. He was taken to another room, handcuffed and questioned. On his first crossing, he was also partially stripped and subjected to a body cavity search. A CBP agent also told Mr. Johnson that he was on an "armed and dangerous" list. Before the protest, Mr. Johnson crossed the U.S.-Mexico border numerous times without incident. It is difficult to believe that his subsequent harassment at the border is unrelated to his protest activity. If it is related, that would constitute a significant abuse.


The part of the Constitution most significantly violated here would be the Fourth Amendment against unwarranted searches and seizures. Do you really think the "immigration problem" will be solved by dissolving the Constitution in selected areas? Is the freedom of Americans worth ditching in order to supposedly police our country from people who mostly are migrant workers that our economy actually benefits from? Are we so bankrupt of ideas that living in fear is preferable to making laws that work practically to solve our problems? Well, it's hard to have ideas when you're having a nervous breakdown, as Lou Dobbs would have prefer.

Especially now in the hyped-up climate where Fear of Terrorism is supposed to penetrate every cell of our flag-wrapped bodies, do we really want Fear to take precedence over ... liberty and freedom??? Fear, pray tell, of what? Fear of ... oh, yeah, fear of losing our liberty and freedom.

What sense does that make???