Recently a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent questioned two Spanish speaking women at a convenience store in Montana. In a report from the Washington Post, Agent O’Neal admitted he asked for their identification based on their use of Spanish. He called it rare to hear Spanish in the area and relied on that as his basis for stopping the women. Was this reasonable or ethnic profiling?

Either way, this is a valuable reminder that border patrol agents may be in places that are not a U.S. border. CBP is specifically responsible for screening people trying to enter the U.S. at 325 land, air and sea ports. They can question or search anyone without a warrant- all foreign visitors, returning American citizens and imported cargo – trying to enter the U.S. This authority extends, by clear federal law, up to 100 miles inland from the border. (See this article for an explanation of its authority).

It is far less clear whether the CBP has authority to search people without warrants if they are more than 100 miles from the border. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects people from unreasonable search and seizure, so this should mean the agents must have “reasonable suspicions”. However, what the Border Authority claims for reasonable suspicion has exploded, meaning they do not have to make much of an argument.

For now, the Justice Department is insisting border agents have the authority to search people and their property anywhere without warrants. This does not include property inside their homes, but it does seem to include vehicles and any property on their persons when they are stopped.

Under these circumstances, documented and undocumented immigrants may encounter a Border Patrol agent in unexpected places. They may want to prepare for this possibility anywhere.

Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C. knows federal immigration law and has the experience to guide you and to advocate on your behalf throughout any type of deportation proceeding, no matter what the allegations may be. We can build the strongest argument that a search was not reasonable and advise you on the options that arise from that defense. Contact your California deportation defense lawyers today and discover what we can do for you.