Border controversy stretches into and across the country
Almost two-thirds of Americans could be stopped by federal agents – for no reason – on their way to work, the grocery store, or to pick up their kids. Some lawmakers argue border security goes too far.
The reach of Customs and Border Protection extends well inside the country’s borders. Agents can setup checkpoints, patrol highways, and board buses and trains within 100-air miles of land or water boundaries.
Within 25 miles, they can patrol your private property, right up to the front door.
"This is America, you shouldn’t be able to do that," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
Leahy - the country’s longest-tenured senator - said he sees the so-called border zone as bordering on unconstitutional. He said a checkpoint that temporarily bogged down commutes along Lake Champlain earlier this year proved to be a complete waste of resources.
"Hundreds, maybe even thousands of cars stopped, only found one person with a visa overstay," he said before sarcastically adding, "oh my gracious."
Leahy wants to dramatically scale down border patrol’s reach within the states. Under his proposal, the border zone would shrink to 25 air miles for travel checkpoints, and 10 for private property.
"We really can’t have those restrictions," said Customs and Border Protection's Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan.
Morgan said the size of the current border zone is critical for national defense. While agents had little to show from the Northwest Vermont checkpoint, further South, just over the New Hampshire border – CBP arrested 24 undocumented immigrants during three days in early September.
"The analogy is kind of like football," said Morgan, "sometimes the running back gets past the linebackers, you need the safeties to take him down, that’s what checkpoints are."
Leahy’s bill only has a handful of official supporters in the House and Senate, and likely isn’t going anywhere fast in Congress, but challenges to the border zone are popping up in the courts as well.