LAREDO, TX — A long-haul truck driver was arrested and detained for 19 days after invoking his rights at an internal federal checkpoint on a highway in Texas.
The incident occurred at approximately midnight on September 26th, 2014. According to Reason TV, a semi-truck hauling Xerox copier machines was stopped at the Laredo North Border Patrol Station, which is miles away from the border on I-35 North inside Texas.
The driver and his passenger were questioned by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents while stopped at the checkpoint. The men — fed up with the routine harassment from federal agents while crisscrossing the United States — were exercising their rights to not answer questions.
Greg Rosenberg, the passenger, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who grew up in Soviet-ruled Armenia. He speaks with an accent and is passionate about keeping this country free. He recalled his version of events in an interview with Reason TV.
Border Patrol became increasingly hostile as the driver politely refused to participate in the roadside interrogation. Mr. Rosenberg sat in the passenger seat recording the incident.
“You have a legal right to ask me a question. I have a legal right not to answer your question,” the driver said in a cell-phone recording.
The CBP officer requested that the truck move to the “secondary checkpoint area” for further questioning. The request was refused, Rosenberg said, because there was “no probable cause to do so.”
Shortly thereafter, the two men were yanked from the truck and put into handcuffs. Only the final 2 minutes of the video were salvaged because CBP officers later confiscated Mr. Rosenberg’s cell and tried to delete the evidence.
Despite verifying his American citizenship, Mr. Rosenberg was detained and interrogated. He said that agents laughed at him as he talked about the constitution and took joy in the situation.
Both the driver and passenger were booked for “impeding border patrol duties,” Reason reported, which is a felony. The men were locked in a South Texas jail without access to legal counsel.
“I saw my lawyer after two weeks,” Rosenberg recalled. It wasn’t until October 10th, 2014 — nineteen days after the incident — that he was released. The government ultimately dropped the charges, avoiding the tenuous legal questions about the legality of the arrest.
“I didn’t get it, because I could never imagine [that] challenging government’s actions, talking about your rights, could get you arrested,” Rosenberg told Reason TV. See the interview below:
There are approximately 170 permanent federal checkpoints erected on highways inside the United States, legally supported by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Martinez-Fuerte. Mr. Rosenberg says that internal checkpoints do not make sense and are reminiscent of the behavior of the former Soviet Union.
“I see a lot of similarities [to] the stories my parents were telling me about the past. If you complained about the government, back then [in Soviet-controlled Armenia], they took you to Siberia,” said Rosenberg. “You don’t have a right to legally challenge the government.”
“It completely doesn’t make any sense to have these interior checkpoints,” he said. “If they are saying they want to protect the border, they should be on the border — not inside America, violating our rights; freedom of movement.”
Attorney Prerna Lal is representing Rosenberg. She intents to file federal lawsuit against the agency alleging false imprisonment and violation of her client’s rights.