Ricardo Palacios, a 74-year old rancher, had gotten used to Customs and Border Protection officials tromping across his south Texas ranch lands without permission over the years. But finding a wireless surveillance camera set up in one of his trees? Not OK. Upon discovering the device, Palacios removed it immediately. It wasn't long after that he started receiving calls from CBP and the Texas Rangers demanding that he turn the camera over to them or face charges.
Having taken enough of their shit, instead of turning the camera over, Palacios gave the feds something else instead: a lawsuit.
According to Ars Technica, Palacios, who's been a lawyer for 50 years, named the two agencies and a CBP agent in a lawsuit that accuses them of violating his constitutional rights, by trespassing on his land, and setting up cameras where ever they damn well please. It's an important case: CBP claims it has a right, within a 100-mile radius of the American border, to stop people (including U.S. citizens, which flies in the face of the Fourth Amendment,) search cars and personal belongings in the name of border security, without a warrant. But this doesn't allow them to go traipsing on to private property in the name of their duties without permission. They're only allowed to do that within 25 miles of the border.
Palacios' ranch? It's 35 miles away from the edge of the U.S./Mexican border. This alone would be enough to warrant a suit against the government. But there's more:
As Palacios alleges in the civil complaint, his interactions with CBP began in April 2010 when his two sons were stopped at a checkpoint along I-35. When one son, Ricardo Palacios Jr., refused to answer questions, he was taken to a secondary inspection where he was assaulted by a CBP officer. Eventually, after being detained for 90 minutes, he was driven home to the ranch just a few miles away.
Over the next several years, CBP agents roamed "freely about, day or night" on the Palacios ranch, despite his numerous efforts to protest. He even sent a formal letter to a regional CBP supervisor on April 9, 2010. However, the letter doesn't seem to have made any substantive difference.
Palacios' suit has yet to be heard by a judge, but the ask is very simple: he wants state and federal agents to stop creeping on to his property without permission or probable cause. Were the courts to side with the rancher, it could have far reaching ramifications for how border agents go about their duties.
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