Is it true that when presenting yourself at a US land border crossing you are effectively without any rights under US law, and therefore CBP does not have to afford you due process, and can treat you as they see fit?
Is it true that when presenting yourself at a US land border crossing you are effectively without any rights under US law, and therefore CBP does not have to afford you due process, and can treat you as they see fit?It might appear to be, especially if you are selected for a more thorough search. But no, it is certainly not true.All your rights under US law and the Constitution are intact when you cross the border, sort of.For example, you still have your fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure-BUT, the courts have ruled many times that the same level of suspicion the government needs to intrude upon those rights is much lower at the border. CBP can search your vehicle, your baggage, even your person, for virtually any reason whatsoever, even a hunch on the part of an officer.Some people are just plain contrary and don’t like being told what to do, no matter how professionally it is done. I’ve had individuals show me a passport, and then refuse to answer any questions or cooperate with a search of their luggage or vehicle. It doesn’t happen often, but it does occur often enough that nearly every officer has dealt with it before.Try to put yourself in the CBP officer’s shoes for a moment: They have an individual in front of them. They know almost nothing abut the person: their identity, where they are coming from, where they’ve been, what they’re bringing with them, if they pose a threat of any sort. Of course, the officer’s immediate concern is for their safety, and the safety of their colleagues and the public.A US citizen is better off than a non-citizen at the border. A citizen might be arrested if they are committing a serious infraction, such as drug smuggling. But a citizen that’s just being a pain in the ass will not be refused entry, as long as their US citizenship can be verified.A non-citizen who decides to be uncooperative will most likely be refused entry. If there are extenuating circumstances, officers have broad authority to initiate unilateral, formal removal proceedings that could bar the individual from the US for a number of years, and expose them to arrest if they attempt to re-enter the country.But here’s the thing: CBP officers are like anyone else. Some are highly motivated law enforcement officers, others do what’s necessary, when they have to. Processing violations and making arrests can be extremely stressful and hard work. Monday morning “quarterbacks” will look over your work at their leisure and be only too happy to point out the uncrossed t’s and undotted i’s.More than a million people a day enter the US through our ports of entry. Screening people, vehicles, cargo and containers is a pretty big job. Because of the sheer numbers involved, CBP detects numerous violations of Custom and Immigration laws and makes tens of thousands of arrests every year.However, when you’re crossing the border, CBP holds all the cards. Cooperate, answer questions truthfully, and your interaction with CBP will likely be quick, easy and inconsequential.Be uncooperative or less than forthcoming, and you’ll likely be A bit uncomfortable with the process.