Last week, the story of a courageous woman who confronted a border patrol officer on a greyhound bus went viral on social media. The woman—and American citizen—was traveling from California to Nevada. At the state border, it is customary to go through a checkpoint to ensure that no one is carrying any fruit over state lines. In this instance, however, border patrol authorities boarded the bus and demanded to see the passengers’ documentation.
The woman stood up and shouted that what the authorities was doing was illegal, and that no one had to comply with the request. She loudly confronted the officers, accusing them of harassment and racial profiling. She pointed out that border patrol has no right to randomly check anyone’s personal papers if they’re more than 100 miles from an international border.
She then took it a step further. In order to get her message across to the passengers on the bus who didn’t speak English, she typed her announcement into Google Translate on her phone and repeated it again in Spanish. She reassured the passengers that they would be safe. Her act of defiance worked. The border patrol backed off, and the bus was allowed to proceed on its way.
The story sheds light on the fundamental rights of all people inside and outside of the 100-mile zone.
The law in the 100-mile zone
In today’s climate of heightened anxiety surrounding deportation, it’s important to understand your rights. Whether you are an undocumented immigrant or a U.S. citizen, you are protected under the Fourth Amendment from random stops and searches.
However, if you’re within 100 miles of the U.S. boundary—which includes the borders to Mexico and Canada as well as the coastal boundaries—border patrol officers are allowed to operate immigration checkpoints. Nonetheless—as with any other place in the U.S.—such officers are not allowed to stop someone without reasonable suspicion or to search their property without probable cause.
San Antonio lies outside of the 100-mile zone from the Mexican border. But regardless of location, legal protections do not guarantee that each officer will act according to the law. Therefore, it’s critical for everyone to understand their rights.
If you believe your rights were violated by an immigration officer, it’s important to discuss your case with an experienced immigration attorney right away. You are entitled to basic protections under the law.