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Tuesday, August 05, 2014


by David Chorlton

In January, the ACLU of Arizona filed an administrative complaint with DHS regarding abuses at six different southern Arizona checkpoints . . . These interior checkpoints are in part the result of decades-old regulations giving Border Patrol authority to operate within a "reasonable distance" of the border. That distance was defined in federal regulations in the 1950's —with no public comment or debate, and at a time when the Border Patrol comprised fewer than 1,100 agents—as 100 miles from any external boundary of the U.S. That area that now encompasses roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population, nine of the ten largest cities, and the entirety of ten states. The law also gives Border Patrol authority to enter private lands within 25 miles of the border. In practice, however, Border Patrol often goes even further into the interior. In 2008, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was stopped at a checkpoint 125 miles from the Canadian border, one of many examples of agents disregarding the geographic and legal limits on their authority. Many are also surprised to learn that Border Patrol operates checkpoints in northern states too, and that even more could be on the way: a recent ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed design plans for permanent Border Patrol checkpoints on southbound New England highways.  --ACLU.  Image source: People Helping People in the Border Zone

The Butterfield Stage doesn’t run
anymore. A six-minute drive
out of Tombstone
leads to a checkpoint
twenty-six miles from Mexico,
that shows how wide the border
has become
            and the O.K. Corral
is a hundred-and-thirty-three years
back down the road. This is where
the law turned into scrubland
and gunfire. Nothing
grows tall enough to obstruct the view
wherever you look, and Highway 80
runs straight as truth
until it touches the sky. The only reason
to slow down
                    is the Stop sign
beside the prefabricated unit
whose manufacturer left
a 1-800 number
for anyone interested to order
a model just like it, with bars
on the windows and an air conditioning unit
working hard beneath a flag
raised for wild animals to see
which country they are in.
Pull over; roll the window down,
and speak in clear English
when the officer asks
                             where you’re going
and tells you it’s just a routine
unless someone moves
in the trunk. The land all around
looks best in a Western sunset
just before it fades
                           and insects pour
into the cold light from carbon arc lamps
with nighthawks sweeping out
of the grass to catch them. Getting
this far is an easy ride
except for anyone
who needs to take another route
and move at night, perhaps
across the Huachucas,
                           or by following
the San Pedro River past
Miracle Valley (where the only miracles
are summer rains), or passing Bisbee
to find out how high and lonesome
High Lonesome Road actually is
at the crest
              where a new moon
is the claw by which hope hangs
for everyone to see.

David Chorlton came to Arizona in 1978 after living in England and Austria. He has spent more than three decades stretched between cultures and writing poetry, the pick of which has just appeared as his Selected Poems, from FutureCycle Press.