You know, in a big city if law enforcement tried to simply wall off a neighborhood they thought was dangerous and make everybody pass through checkpoints, you know, there would, obviously, be protests on a massive scale.
Arivaca Road is the main route out of the tiny southern Arizona town of Arivaca. Every time residents like Peter Ragan need to leave, to go to the bank, for instance, they must stop here. This is a border patrol checkpoint, 24 miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border, one of dozens of interior stops that some say feel like a police state.
The fact of having to go through the checkpoint, having to stop and be inspected, but also not knowing exactly what the interaction is going to be like makes it a pretty anxious experience every time you go through.
Hi, how are you doing, gentlemen? One second. How have ya'll been? You have a good day and drive safe. Thank you.
As the debate over immigration increasingly revolves around border security, some Americans say checkpoints like this go too far.
I want to go free on my way.
Here I am, just going about my own business and...
People are posting videos online of checkpoint refusals as a way of asserting their right to move freely in their own country.
You know, correct me if I'm wrong, did I stumble into Mexico or is this still the United States?
Whatever your rejection is or whatever to what's going on here, let us investigate and you can go on your way.
Others document alleged civil rights abuses by border patrol agents.
If you have a political or an emotional situation here, I don't want to hear about it. I want to see your I.D. now.
This video was recorded by a resident at the Arivaca Road checkpoint.
And sit by the vehicle like I asked you to.
I'm still confused about that.
Please step out of the vehicle.
I would like to know why.
Step out of the vehicle, please. I asked you nicely.
And the Supreme Court has said these checkpoints are only permissible insofar as they involve a brief and limited inquiry into resident status. So if border patrol is detaining people to ask about more things than just to verify their resident status, if they don't have any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing, that would violate the Fourth Amendment.
James Lyall, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, monitors alleged abuses and unlawful detentions along the southern border.
There are big causes for concern that there are widespread rights abuses happening.
Customs and border patrol declined the New York Times' request for an interview, but issued a statement saying, "C.B.P. Officers and Border Patrol agents enforce the nation's laws while preserving the civil rights and civil liberties of all people with whom C.B.P. personnel interact."
It has invaded my rights many times already. I have been stopped at the checkpoint and harassed and everything thrown out of my trunk.
Residents say the checkpoints have transformed small towns like Arivaca, even kept people from visiting.
Many of us have family members or people that say, "You know what, just forget it. We don't want to go. We don't want to go get hassled." It's a hassle every time.
The checkpoint is classified as temporary and yet it's been here for nearly seven years.
We want justice, we want peace, we want checkpoints off our streets.
Last year, fed-up residents staged a protest calling for its removal.
Check yourself, B.P., stop watching our community.
Until last month, volunteers were regularly monitoring the checkpoint, recording agent interactions.
Yeah, we have to watch the watchers because the watchers don't watch themselves. There's no oversight. You know, it's the only power we have to empower ourselves and also change the situation at the checkpoint. There may be small errors in this transcript.