How many of us carry a form of ID on our person that would prove our legal status to be in the country? There are only a very limited number of documents that would be able to do this: 1) original birth certificate, 2) original or expired U.S. passport, or 3) a foreign passport with an unexpired temporary visa stamped in it , 4) an original Green Card, or 5) an orginal naturalization certificate. When I put this question to my college class at DePaul University two years ago, only one person out of 40 could prove his legal immigration status, the lone immigrant who was carrying his Green Card.
When stopped by Border Patrol at an immigration checkpoint within the U.S., do you need to answer questions about your immigration status? Any response you give is voluntary. Many of us have been asked a whole series of questions when returning via a land border from Canada or Mexico. For me, coming back from Canada to Washington State last year it was: "Are you a U.S. citizen?" "Where are you going?" "What is the conference you are going to?" So much for privacy and freedom of assembly. Most of the time we feel like we must answer or bring more hassle upon ourselves. Imagine how foreign looking or sounding persons feel at these checkpoints. This mesmerizing series of taped interactions of average citizens with Border Patrol show you need not answer questions about your immigration status and you can even refuse to pull over for further inspection.
By law, the Border Patrol is only supposed to have jurisdiction "within 100 miles of the border", which is useful to know since the Border Patrol has been pushing deeper into the interior of the U.S. as reported by the NYT while back. It is unclear whether that 100 miles includes an international airport. (Any immigration lawyers out there want to clarify this one?) One of course has to wonder what would have happened if a Latino driver did this or a driver who spoke only a little English. I am reminded of my former colleague at DePaul, a mathematician of Arab American descent. He said, "I love how the government tells you the stops and searches at the airport are random, because I somehow always randomly get picked for extra screening." Presumably a mathamatician would understand what is random.
H/T to Alan Gomez and Ben Winograd