Refusing the Department of Homeland Security.

In Arizona, the Department of Homeland Security is setting up random checkpoints (not on the border) for the purpose of making sure people are United States citizens – because what has the fourth amendment ever done for us?

I have a voice recorder on my smartphone that gets activated anytime an authority figure, such as a police officer, speaks to me.  When I break the law, there are consequences, and I want to make sure that standard is consistent.  That’s why the police are there, right – to keep me safe from law-breakers?  This also helps me to feel comfortable saying “no” when they step outside their sphere of power.

“I’m going to search your car.”

“No, you’re not, officer.”

Congrats to these people who, when asked by those employed to serve and protect to abdicate the rights they are supposed to be protecting, said “no”.  It’s not a matter of having anything to hide, it’s a matter of refusing to abandon the American ideal.

When groups like the DHS are performing their job in a fully legal way that doesn’t spit on the Constitution, I’m glad they’re there.  When the people charged with enforcing the law eagerly break it though, the only difference between them and a citizen is they don’t seem to be accountable.  That’s a problem.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    This does need to be done more often. Those who would enforce the laws need to be held to the highest standards because they do have authority invested in them to strip us of our rights.

    But too often, they can abuse their authority because they are the authority.

  • Charlie

    That first dude in the video is pastor Steven Anderson. He was beaten and tazed.

    • Glodson

      Apparently, from what I’ve read, he was acquitted of the misdemeanor charges filed against him that led to his beating. And he has a law suit pending for over this. The acquittal will be great ammunition for this trial, as well as evidence brought forth which highlights discrepancies in the reports filed in this case. It even goes as far to poke a major hole in the notion that they even had probable cause to search in the first place.

      Only by holding these offices accountable can we prevent these acts. I would like to see criminal charges brought against the men who beat Anderson. They didn’t have a legal reason to act, or to us violence, so they should be held accountable for assault. That would be a great check on the authorities who abuse their power.

  • Charlie

    There is also footage of the trial and other media items on his YouTube channel. Careful though, he is one of those InfoWarriors.

    I guess to authoritarians, civil disobedience is still disobedience.

    Another great resource for handling police encounters is Flex Your Rights and the ACLU also produces content to help.

  • pjmaertz

    That video is excellent. Although I am a white male with a Minnesota accent, I will do this if I’m ever stopped by some bullshit feds asking if I’m a citizen.

  • heliconia

    So, potentially naive question here, but could a non-U.S. citizen in this situation legally refuse to answer the question and ask to go?

    • Glodson

      I do believe the notion of Due Process applies to all. Unless they have probable cause or a warrant, they have to let you go. Citizen or not. Now they might have a leg to stand on if you are here illegally, as you would already be violating a law. That can be used to establish probable cause, and they would get to detain you anyways.

      I know that such Checkpoints are considered legal by the Supreme Court, and police are still allowed to ask for documentation to that effect. However, if you have the evidence you are here legally and refuse the search, they should let you go on your way.

      Sadly, the key word is should. Recording them in the act as you refuse can establish that they didn’t have probable cause. And you have a legal right to record them in action, don’t let them tell you otherwise.

      • Anonymous

        But how would they know you are here illegally unless you tell them? At one point in the video the passenger asked what probable cause the officer had and he seemed THIS close to saying, “Because you’re brown and have an accent!”

        • Glodson

          All justices agreed to uphold the provision of the law allowing Arizona state police to investigate the immigration status of an individual stopped, detained, or arrested if there is reasonable suspicion that individual is in the country illegally. However, Justice Kennedy specified in the majority opinion that state police may not detain the individual for a prolonged amount of time for not carrying immigration documents; and that cases of racial profiling are allowed to proceed through the courts, if such cases happen to arise later on


          I am not sure how that’s supposed to play out, but that’s the law as it stands now.

          • Anonymous

            Still requires “reasonable suspicion,” which as is noted later in the quoted text, can’t simply be, “he looked Mexican.” Unless they can come up with a way to say that they have reasonable suspicion that you are illegal based on something other than your immediate physical appearance, speech , etc., then you have every right to insist that they provide such grounds for suspicion or allow you to move about freely.

            In the video, the officers do a lot of post hoc justification by saying that refusal to answer the question or to pull over to Zone 2, or interfering with their mission, constitutes reasonable suspicion. But that doesn’t justify them asking the question in the first place. I am impressed by the guts it takes to do this.

  • Benjamin Porter

    Good for these people. You have the right in this country to go about your business undesturbed unless they believe you are breaking the law with probable cause. We are not a police state

  • Mark

    The pastor finally found a good use for his Bible. This is a great way to get out of checkpoints.

  • Daniel Schealler

    As a non-American, I’d be *way* to nervous to try this in America.