Widespread abuses by Customs and Border Protection officials without repercussions or accountability have led many to refer to the border zone area as a constitution-free zone. In practice, Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority resulting in repeated violations of constitutional rights. These include the First Amendment Rights with respect to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceably assemble.
This case is about preserving the fundamental First Amendment right to hold our government accountable at the border and challenging CBP’s abusive behavior of those who seek to exercise these rights. Ray Askins is an activist concerned about environmental issues at the border. While standing on a public street in Calexico, he took photographs of the Port of Entry building to illustrate a presentation he planned to give on vehicle emissions at ports of entry. Christian Ramirez is a human rights activist who photographed male CBP officers frisking female travelers as they were preparing to leave the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
This is a First Amendment case brought against DHS, CBP, and certain named officials for their interference with the plaintiffs’ right to protest, observe and record activity at the U.S. Border Patrol’s checkpoint on Arivaca Road near the Arizona-Mexico border. Although CBP claims that this checkpoint is temporary, it has been in continuous existence for seven years. Many residents of Arivaca must drive through the checkpoint every day to reach jobs, schools and shops. The plaintiffs are members of an Arivaca, Arizona community organization which organized a “checkpoint monitoring campaign” in response to a number of complaints of civil rights abuses by agents at the checkpoint. A number of these incidents were detailed in an Administrative Complaint filed with DHS Office of Inspector General and DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.