Some Arivaca residents upset over Border Patrol checkpoint - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Some Arivaca residents upset over Border Patrol checkpoint

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ARIVACA, Ariz. - A battle is brewing in one Arizona Border Town over what some residents say is taking over their way of life. They're not talking about migrants crossing the border; their fight is with Border Patrol.

Border Patrol agents operate immigration stops 24 hours a day on the edge of town in Arivaca. Everyone leaving town going north is stopped, asked about their citizenship, and sometimes even searched. Many residents compare the experience to living in a police state. 

"I just love this place, it's home to me," says Carlota Wray, one of the residents now protesting the checkpoint.

Arivaca is ten miles from the border, with a few stores and one main road. Fox 10 joined Wray for the ride along the 15-mile stretch to the immigration checkpoint on Arivaca Road, one of two checkpoints north of the town.

Wray moved from Mexico to Arivaca more than 30 years ago, and though Wray became a U.S. citizen, she says she's had to show her passport to agents.

"It is a nightmare, they are here every day," she says.

Leesa Jacobson is among the residents who have been protesting at the checkpoints for the past year and gathering signatures to petition Border Patrol to leave.  Organizers say half of the town has signed the petition.

"It's like living in a war zone," says Jacobson, "Border Patrol on the road, helicopters in the air, checkpoints going to the supermarket, this is the kind of thing we see on the news in other countries, but we live with it on a daily basis," she says.

The Border Patrol checkpoint north of Arivaca is classified as temporary, but it has been there for seven years. Border Patrol says it is there to stop illegal immigration and drug smuggling. Still, many residents in Arivaca say the checkpoint violates their constitutional rights.

"Every time you go through the checkpoint you have an unwarranted search," said Jacobson.

Wray says she's never refused Border Patrol agents requests, but some drivers along the borderlands are starting to.

YouTube videos getting millions of views show drivers refusing to answer agents. Many times it works, and agents just wave the drivers along. 

U.S. Customs & Border Protection declined our request for an interview. In a statement, the agency says a 1976 Supreme Court ruling allows Border Patrol to operate and ask for identification up to 100 miles into the United States. However, in order to legally search a vehicle under the Fourth Amendment the agents must develop probable cause. 

Border Patrol says it makes hundreds of arrests across Arizona, but it won't release data on what happens at the Arivaca stops. Protesters have begun monitoring the stops for abuses. Organizers say they've counted no arrests.

"They may not be very effective at stopping immigration or drug smuggling, but they are very effective at making people fearful and uncomfortable," said Jacobson.

As FOX 10 approached the checkpoint with Wray, we lowered our cameras to see how agents naturally operate.

"American citizen?" asked an agent. All three in the car answered yes. "Have a good day," said the agent.

It's a simple routine question and answer, but Wray says she worries about next time.

"I thank God we live in this country... but when I see all these guys with guns it makes me feel a little bit of fear, I never know what they are going to do, for what reason are they going to get upset," said Wray.

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