April 30, 2020

Michigan’s status as a border zone could affect your civil rights

When a discussion about America’s border issues comes up, you might not think about Michigan. Other states, including California, New Mexico, Texas, and other states, usually come to mind.

Debates about places facing serious border issues usually do not include our state. Michigan is at the center of a debate about the border zone. That includes illegal stops that often lead to deportation. You might have legal options if officials stopped your car and detained you.

The U.S. Constitution and illegal stops

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects your right against illegal search and seizure. In most cases, authorities must have suspicions or a warrant before they can stop you. They also cannot conduct random routine searches in most places.

Authorities do have more discretion at U.S. Borders. There, government agencies have the authority (with limitations) to make discretionary, routine stops. They can also check immigration status at the border without a warrant or suspicion of a crime.

There is also an area within 100-miles of the borders, called border zones. Authorities have more leeway in these areas.

Michigan shares borders with Canada and the Great Lakes, which are international territories. That means the entire state of Michigan is a border zone. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have the authority to conduct searches and make immigration checks anywhere in the state. However, there are limitations.

The Fourth Amendment applies

In these border zones, authorities still must have a reasonable belief that an immigration violation or crime happened. They cannot pull you over without reasonable suspicion.

Immigration lawyers are arguing that warrantless searches in border zones are too inclusive. Many agents often do not understand (or ignore) their legal requirements in border zones. The Constitution applies. You might have legal options if you are facing deportation after a traffic stop in Michigan.