Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Border Searches Upheld by Court

On last New Year's Eve, a federal judge in Brooklyn, who is himself the son of immigrants, ruled in favor of the sovereign power of the United States to search the possessions of anybody entering our country, without first getting a warrant. This surprisingly good decision in Abidor vs. Napolitano was rendered by Senior Judge Edward Korman, who upheld the authority of customs agents to search laptop computers, smart phones, and other electronics carried by people entering the United States. Judge Korman, who was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan nearly three decades ago, upheld “border search doctrine” to allow the searching of all possessions entering our nation, without requiring any warrant to do so.

This court decision involved a student who carried both a French and U.S. passport with visas from Jordan and Lebanon. His laptop computer contained images of terrorist rallies. The court held that a customs official can search that laptop without limitation. Judge Korman traced the long tradition for authorities to search what comes into this country, whether there is any reasonable suspicion or not. According to the court, “This longstanding recognition that searches at our borders without probable cause and without a warrant are nonetheless ‘reasonable’ has a history as old as the Fourth Amendment itself.’” “National self-protection” is the reason.

This decision is a welcome rebuttal to a Ninth Circuit decision in United States vs. Cotterman, which tied the hands of our border agents. That Ninth Circuit decision required “reasonable suspicion” by border agents before they could search computers and other possessions being brought into this country, and it limited the scope of what can be searched. Unlike the Ninth Circuit, the federal court in Brooklyn lets our border agents do their job to protect us, without tying their hands. It was nice to finish the year 2013 on a positive note about border security.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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