The Constitution protects your from unreasonable search and seizure no matter where you are standing in the United States, right? Not necessarily. A total of 197.4 million Americans (two-thirds of the population) live in so-called "Constitution-Free Zones" where they s are "subject to random and arbitrary stops and searches," according to the ACLU. In these areas, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other enforcement officials have the power to stop, search and detain any resident or traveler without just cause. In other words, they do not need a warrant or probable cause to conduct a "routine search."
Earlier this week New York District Judge Edward Korman denied the ACLU lawsuit claiming that "free zones" were an infringement on Constitutional rights. Judge Korman declared there was a "border exemption" to Fourth Amendment protections. Millions of Americans live in towns where many of the wise words drafted by the Founding Fathers do not necessarily apply. The areas deemed a Constitution-Free Zone extend 100 miles inland from United States coastal and land borders, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Individuals living or traveling anywhere in the state of Florida are not covered by certain Constitutional protections.
Constitution-Free Zones were reportedly established to aid in the apprehensions of international drug lords, traveling criminals and terrorists. All airports within the United States fall are included in the specified zones, regardless of physical location. The Fourth Amendment guarantees all Americans the right to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects from unreasonable and unwarranted government intrusion." Apparently, the definition of unwarranted and unreasonable varies greatly depending upon which part of the United States you are traveling or call home.
Catching terrorists should remain a top priority, but Americans should not have to give away their constitutional rights in order to get the job done. According to a McCuistion report, multiple studies have revealed that average American citizens have been "harassed" by the FBI when the federal agency has enlisted the aid of DHS to search and detain individuals in Constitution-Free Zones.
Excerpt from an ACLU report on Constitution Free Zones:
"On the roads of California and elsewhere in the nation – places far removed from the actual border – agents are stopping, interrogating, and searching Americans on an everyday basis with absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing. The bottom line is that the extraordinary authorities that the government possesses at the border are spilling into regular American streets."US Customs and Border Protection supervisory border patrol agent Jason Ciliberti asserts the actions are constitutional. "The 100-mile zone absolutely is not a Constitution-free zone," Ciliberti said. "Those 100 miles are what essentially is said to be a reasonable distance from the boundary from the United States, and the Supreme Court has come down firmly on our side and said that what we're doing is not unreasonable."
Border crossing checkpoints are reasonable and do truly address national security preservation. Folks choose to cross the border and know in advance they will be subjected to scrutiny. Millions of Americans living or traveling 100 miles away from the border likely had no idea they were living in a Constitution-Free Zone when purchasing their home or signing an employment contract.
According to an interactive Constitution Free Zone map on the ACLU website, most of the major metropolitan areas in the United States are in the Fourth Amendment-infringing zones. Citizens and visitors to Los Angeles, New York City and Philadelphia, just to name a few, can be searched at any time by federal agents.
The Department of Homeland Security was given such extraordinary powers following 9/11, and Americans have been living blissfully unaware of the infringement upon their constitutional rights ever since. DHS was lambasted for the actions of the bloated federal agency and vowed to examine whether the actions of the department were legal. Not surprisingly, the DHS review of itself determined that all policies and agent actions were constitutional.
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