US Border Patrol Agents in Arizona celebrated America's then-upcoming birthday in the best way they know how: by being Constitution-abusing dicks. 96-year old Raul Castro, who served not only as Governor of Arizona (the only Latino governor Arizona has ever had, natch) but also a former US ambassador to Bolivia, El Salvador and Argentina, was on his way to a birthday party last month when he was detained by the Border Patrol for an estimated 30-45 minutes at a check point 22 miles away* from the Mexican border for giving off "possible" trace levels of radiation. Even after being told who Castro was and that the radiation was most likely from a medical procedure Castro received the day before, the Border Patrol insisted that the former Governor, who was wearing a suit, leave his air-conditioned car and stand inside a roadside tent, in temperatures nearing 100 degrees, while they tried to determine exactly what kind of dirty bomb the nonagenarian was smuggling. After deciding that the well-decorated public servant wasn't some illegal immigrant planning on blowing up Flagstaff, the Border Control let Castro and his friend/driver go.
Castro was relatively calm about the incident, telling MSNBC, "I feel they've got a job to do and I don't condemn them for doing a job, but once I was identified and I was 96 years of age and told them I had medical treatment the day before, I expected a little more."
He elaborated to Arizona's The Republic:
"The sun was blazing on me," he said. "Once I identified myself, who I was, and that I had been to the doctor, I was under medical care, I have a pacemaker on my heart, (I would have thought) that they would have been more considerate and said, 'Keep on going.' But that didn't happen."
Anne Doan, a family friend and professor at the University of Arizona, was a bit more critical in a column she wrote for Nogales International:
"I was embarrassed as I watched the governor being needlessly treated like a nuclear threat, especially because they knew he had just had a treatment at Tucson Heart Hospital the day before. I felt he was being disrespected as a senior citizen, much less the amazing statesman that he is."
Castro's wife, Patricia, also weighed in, calling the incident, "traumatic, to say the least," and noting that the Border Patrol should use "more common sense."
Alessandra Soler, the executive director of the ACLU in Arizona – can you imagine how busy she must be? - said Casto's treatment wasn't unusual.
"This happens all the time in terms of these types of indiscriminate stops of individuals not suspected of any wrongdoing. I think most people would agree that subjecting a 96-year-old man to secondary screening does little to secure our borders and a man who had just informed them that he had undergone this medical procedure."
The US Border Patrol claims Castro was only detained for ten minutes, and issued this statement:
"CBP detection equipment at the I-19 Border Patrol Checkpoint discovered a possible trace of radiation on Governor Castro. As required by policy, agents must identify and resolve all sources of radiation, regardless of the circumstances. In this instance, CBP agents were able to identify and resolve the source of the radiation reading. Gov. Castro was delayed for 10 minutes from 11:42 to 11:52 a.m. CBP regrets any inconvenience the delay may have caused."
*The ACLU notes that the US Border Control does "not need a warrant or probable cause to conduct a 'routine search'" on areas within 100 miles of the "external boundary" of the US, an area which the ACLU estimates includes two thirds of the US population, or 197.4 million people.
[photo via AP]