In the current political environment, it is no surprise that immigrants seem to be targeted more and more, and the border patrol is out in full force. Just a few months ago, a couple was detained by U.S. Border Patrol after a routine traffic stop. People usually think that Border Patrol can only be found in areas closest to the U.S.-Mexico border, but that is actually only a fraction of their enforcement efforts.
What is Border Patrol Jurisdiction?
Border Patrol agents are sworn federal agents capable of enforcing the law in all 50 states and all U.S. territories. Generally, agents can operate within 100 miles from each international border. This pretty much covers the entirety of San Diego County. Under certain conditions, they can also go beyond that distance. They are allowed to make arrests or question anyone potentially violating immigration law, but they do not issue things like speeding tickets. However, traffic violations such as a broken taillight or speeding can be used as a pretext to stop you to question you further.
Where can Border Patrol Stop You?
Border Patrol agents are allowed to set up checkpoints even in areas not in the immediate vicinity of the border. They can stop drivers to question the occupants of a car, and even request proof of immigration status. They are also allowed to station themselves along highways and roads to be on the lookout for people violating potential immigration laws or committing crimes.
They are allowed to stop drivers under the “reasonable suspicion” standard. That is, Border Patrol has to have more than a hunch that a crime or immigration violation has been or will be committed. This is a lower standard than the “probable cause” standard, which means there is concrete evidence to indicate a crime has been/is being committed.
These standards get murky, since stopping drivers based solely on the color of their skin is considered racial profiling. However, border patrol is allowed to consider race or nationality while deciding to stop and question people, as long as agents can point to indications of criminal activity.