In Nobody is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States, geographer Reece Jones argues that Supreme Court precedent, a growing workforce and mission creep have made the U.S. Border Patrol a national police force that operates without appropriate accountability.
In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Jones and the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles discuss the creation of the U.S. Border Patrol in 1924 in the wake of racist immigration laws. Jones shares how a “Wild West” mentality thrived within the service in its early years; how language restricting the Border Patrol’s actions to within a “reasonable” distance resulted in a 100-mile border zone; and how two California public defenders in the 1970s brought four critical cases before the U.S. Supreme Court that dealt a heavy blow to Fourth Amendment rights in the border zone.
Jones describes how the original mission of the Border Patrol to curtail illegal immigration expanded to include drug searches and anti-terrorism missions. That mission creep resulted in Border Patrol agents snatching protestors off the streets of Portland, Oregon, during protests after the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020.
They also discuss how Border Patrol checkpoints could potentially be used in states that criminalize abortions to control and monitor the travel of pregnant people within the 100-mile border zone.