Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Your Papers, Please

Three Canadian women, in two separate lawsuits, are accusing US border guards of "sexual groping" during searches, specific details at the link. One of them, from Windsor, was on her way to Detroit for "a routine shopping trip" when it happened (the other two have chosen not to talk to the media about it). Their lawyer says, "the type of search they received was not a normal pat down or a normal personal search."

Now, as far as I can tell, the lawsuits have just been filed, so innocent until proven guilty and all that still applies. But it just strikes me as completely ridiculous that the system is set up to even make crimes like this possible. How ridiculous? Let me count the ways...

1) Why do we, as a society, believe it's remotely appropriate to stop and search women on a routine shopping trip? Bear in mind, when you cross the border, they don't just let everyone through and only stop the suspicious ones. Everyone is stopped and has to give the guard an account of why they want to cross, where they're going, when they're going back and any other questions the guard feels like asking. The act of trying to cross a border makes you suspicious enough by itself to warrant interrogation. If this was done in the middle of New York, or Chicago, or St. Louis, Americans would rightly consider it repugnant and even tyrannical. Yet when it's done at the border, we cheer.

2) What in the hell is "a normal pat down or a normal personal search"? Since when in this supposedly freedom-loving country are pat downs and personal searches normal? Even if I'm completely off-base with point #1 and interrogation by armed enforcement officers for the crime of wanting to go shopping is entirely appropriate, how does that lead to pat downs and personal searches being normal? Whatever happened to being secure in our persons, papers and effects? I'm sorry, but I simply don't think it's reasonable to be subject to armed searches solely for going about routine business in a free society (and I mean "reasonable" in both the modern and Fourth Amendment senses). The only suspicious thing about these women was that they happened to be in Canada before wanting to visit America.

3) Even if I'm wrong on both #1 and #2, and personal pat downs on your way to the store are reasonable, shouldn't we have protections against obvious abuses like what (allegedly) happened to these women? The whole idea of border checkpoints is to have collections of law enforcement officers in one place, then force everyone including maybe criminals through that one place so we can catch the bad guys. But when the bad guys become border guards themselves and use that position of power to sexually exploit the citizenry, that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Where were the other guards when this (allegedly) happened? Why didn't they do anything to stop it?

4) These three women are Canadian. They live and presumably work in Canada. They have filed their suits in an American court, and are represented by an American lawyer. If they plan to show up for their court dates, how are they going to get there? The only way they can even show up in court to make their case against the border guards is by going through a border checkpoint and subjecting themselves to "normal" pat downs and personal searches by the armed coworkers and friends of the people they are suing. This, in particular, illustrates the ridiculousness of our border system. I don't know if their lawyer is able to stand-in for them so that they never have to be present, but if I were one of these women, I would certainly hope so.

Sometimes I think that people who don't live near the border, or who have never lived in another country, have simply never thought about these issues. But clearly a lot of people have, and I'm sure many of them would think I'm some pot-smoking far-left hippie for having these thoughts. I guess that's really what boggles my mind-- that so many people, the clear majority it seems, think that the current border system is the right, decent, moral way to handle issues of security and law enforcement. And where they think it's wrong, it's because the system doesn't go far enough. That simply doesn't make sense to me, at least not in a society that claims to value liberty and personal freedom.

No comments:

Post a Comment