By Raoul Lowery Contreras
I carry my passport with me in this age of Trump because his agents can demand proof or my citizenship anywhere I go in San Diego, Imperial, Riverside and Orange counties. ICE and the Border Patrol can interrogate me, detain me, search me and do a body cavity search within 100 miles of the border — without a search or arrest warrant.
For those who hate immigrants, the “good old days” are back.
The year was 1976, the 200th Anniversary of the birth of the United States. My five-year-old company, San Diego/Tijuana Tours, was busy running 15 buses around San Diego and Tijuana from a tour office on San Diego Bay. We ran five trips a day to Tijuana for shopping and sightseeing.
One afternoon I was standing on the curb in front of the office waiting for our bus to return so I could give the driver a hotel pick-up list for our 6:30 p.m. trip to Tijuana. As usual, downtown San Diego’s main street, Broadway, was busy. Out of the moving mass of cars a sedan with four men in it screeched to a halt in front of me. Out came four armed men flashing federal ID cards in my face.
“What’s your citizenship?” one yelled.
“American,” I said. I turned and waved to my employees watching through the plate glass windows. One came out and I told him to bring my passport from my desk. He came back with it a minute later, and I handed it to the Immigration and Naturalization Service agent. He looked at it and showed it to his fellow agents. They laughed.
“It’s a good forgery; you’re coming with us,” he said, while one of the others handcuffed me.
Off we went to the Border Patrol headquarters near the border. As I was being placed into the vehicle I told my people to call the cops and tell them I had been kidnapped, and to call my wife and my lawyer. Just then my bus from Mexico pulled up. I told my driver to get his list and pick up the customers.
When we arrived at the Border Patrol headquarters I demanded to see the chief agent. My captors laughed. I kept demanding to see the man. They kept laughing. Just then the shift supervisor saw me. He, like the chief, had enjoyed many a free dinner and lunch at the Caliente Race Track in Tijuana as my guests between 1967 and 1971 when I was the public relations director for the track.
He asked the agents why was I in handcuffs and why I was there at all. They showed him my U.S. passport and told him they had a complaint that I was smuggling illegals from Mexico and that I was probably illegally in the United States too.
This story ends with the four agents being sent to other duty stations near the Canadian border, two in Minnesota and the other two in Maine.
Did I tell you that not only did I know the supervising Border Patrol agent and the Chief of Sector, but I served in the same Marine Corps Reserve unit with the U.S. Attorney when he was attending law school. Needless to say, he took my call when I telephoned to complain about the unofficial semi-arrest by the long-gone agents.
Today, in the second year of Trump, I carry the recently issued passport card with picture, hologram and full State Department identification. I’m ready to show it anytime a federal agent demands to know my citizenship.
The 4th Amendment of the Constitution that prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures” does not apply to Mexican-looking people within the 100-mile swath at the border per the Supreme Court. The court, of course, is the same court that approved the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. Justices change, but the court doesn’t if one is unlucky enough to not look white, Anglo-Saxon and protestant.
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant and the author of “The Armenian Lobby & American Foreign Policy” and “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade.” His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.
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