How to deal with American authoritarianism when crossing internal checkpoints. What do you answer when asked, “Are you a U.S. Citizen?” What do you answer when you’re a resident alien?
(05-08-2013, updated 07-15-2018) Earlier I was mad about the liberties police take daily in regular, non-threatening situations, and that nobody has a problem with it. Not enough to say anything. Americans and your endless respect for authority! This, of course, is not completely true.
The Rio Grande Valley borders on Mexico in southern Texas. In Texas, from El Paso to Brownsville, the Rio Grande is the entire border between the USA and Mexico. And yet, if you drive fifty miles north of the river, on I35, on your way to San Antonio or Austin, you come across a checkpoint. It’s one of the second border checkpoints, or internal checkpoints — like double glazing, as it were. Any time you drive through that checkpoint, you have to lower the window and answer the question: “Are you a U.S. citizen?“
I haven’t been down there for a while, but when this used to happen to me, I would say, “Nope” and show my green card. Just hoping for a follow-up. Once in a while the border patrol officer asked where I was from, and when I told him, I’d get a blank look and a gesture that I could drive on. Darn.
But recently some folks have been pointing out that the internal checkpoints are on American soil, and that they don’t have to answer that question. Watch these videos to see what happens. It’s hilarious, because it totally flummoxes the officers they ask, “Are you a U.S. citizen?” and someone says, “I don’t have to answer that“. When suddenly the ever-reliable American authoritarianism of anyone in uniform doesn’t work.
T is probably just fine with my unwillingness to go back to the valley, because when I do, he’ll be shitting bricks on the way back. When we pass one of the internal checkpoints, the officer asks “Are you a U.S. citizen?”, will I say no and just show my green card (aka resident alien card), or will I decide to mess with their minds? Or will I show them my other resident alien card? Honestly, I won’t know myself until the moment I open my mouth. One of the ways to keep life interesting. I’ll let you all know.
(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title: “None of Your Business!”, 05-08-2013)
- Header image: Eric Gay / AP