Community Testimonies

Arivacans Speak Out About Border Patrol Abuse

  • An Arivaca resident arrived at the checkpoint and notified the agent she was a U.S. citizen.  The agent asked if the vehicle she was driving belonged to her.  She responded that she was a U.S. citizen.  The agent said, “You can answer a simple question or we can do it the hard way,” and directed her to the secondary inspection area.  More agents arrived with a service canine, and claimed that the dog had “alerted” to the presence of contraband.  The agents demanded that the woman exit the vehicle, over her objections, then questioned her about drugs, firearms, and the vehicle’s history.  The service canine found no drugs or contraband, but agents continued to search her trunk, then rifled through her purse and opened and smelled her water bottle.  Before letting her go, the agents told her she had not been “respectful.”
  • An Arivaca resident who is a naturalized U.S. citizen has repeatedly faced extended questioning and demands for identification at the Arivaca Road checkpoint.  Although she is a citizen, agents have demanded that she show proof of naturalization, which she is not required to carry.  She believes this scrutiny is based solely on her Hispanic appearance and her accent.
  • A local business owner reported being detained at the checkpoint while on her way to a doctor’s appointment.  The woman had experienced a recent heart attack; however, she was held for over an hour in the hot sun, not permitted to sit, and denied water.  At her store in Arivaca, she hears regular complaints about the Border Patrol checkpoint, including from visitors who report that tourists are afraid to visit Arivaca because the checkpoint “makes them feel that something is wrong with Arivaca.”  As a direct result of the decline in visitors, the woman’s business has suffered and she will be forced to close her doors at the end of the month.
  • An Arivaca resident and a friend arrived at the checkpoint and identified themselves as U.S. citizens.  An agent asked to search their vehicle and they declined.  As a result, the agent directed them to the secondary inspection area.  When they asked for an explanation, the agent replied that if they would not consent to a search, they would have to wait for a service canine to inspect the vehicle.  They waited 20 minutes for the dog to arrive, at which point agents demanded that they exit the vehicle, without explanation, and then opened the door of their car and let the dog in.  When they objected, agents yelled at them to remain still and keep their hands visible.  They were not allowed to use their phones.  One of the agents then claimed that the dog had “alerted” because it had “changed its breathing pattern.”  After 45 minutes, they were finally released.  Agents told them the search was, “for [their] own protection.”
  • An Arivaca resident driving through the checkpoint was questioned about the contents of her vehicle and whether she was the owner.  When the woman asked the agent if she was required to answer, she was directed to pull into the secondary inspection area.  Another agent asked for her identification and told her to exit her vehicle.  When the woman asked why she had to exit her vehicle, the agent yelled at her to “get out,” then reached inside the window, unlocked the door, and opened it without permission.  The woman exited and handed the agent her identification.   More agents arrived and began to lecture her about why the checkpoint was “there to protect” her.  The agents continued to question her, asking about her family and her work.  Eventually, she was released.
  • A visitor to Arivaca was driving through the checkpoint when an agent told her he wanted to search her trunk.  When she refused, the agent directed her to the secondary inspection area.  Before she could turn off the engine, an agent opened the door of her car without permission and demanded that she exit.  An agent opened her trunk and searched her purse.  The woman was questioned at length before she was finally released without explanation.
  • A young man was detained at the checkpoint after agents directed him to the secondary inspection area saying they wanted to “check a few things out.” Agents brought out a service canine, and claimed there was a “problem” with one of the tires.  While agents removed the tire, the young man was questioned at length.  He was finally released without explanation but his tires were not properly installed and had to be adjusted.
  • An Arivaca resident arrived at the checkpoint and confirmed that she was a US citizen.  The woman’s car had just been in the vicinity of a skunk and the exterior of the car smelled of skunk; however, agents did not believe her and directed her to the secondary inspection area to investigate the smell.  Agents called for a service canine, but the dog did not arrive.  After 45 minutes, agents told the woman, “It will save time if we can just search your car.”  Agents then conducted an extended search of her vehicle.  The woman was detained for over an hour before being released.
  • An Arivaca resident arrived at the checkpoint and was directed to the secondary inspection area.  When he asked for an explanation, the agent said the man had been driving too fast.  When the man objected, the agent then claimed a service canine had “alerted,” even though no dog was anywhere near the vehicle.  Nonetheless, the man was detained while agents searched his vehicle.  The agents found nothing.  This was the third time in two years that Border Patrol agents falsely claimed a dog “alerted” to justify an illegal search of the man’s vehicle.  One of the agents told the man, “Arivaca is just a bunch of smugglers.”