“I’ve been in combat and I’ve never been hurt that bad in my life,” states Larry Kirschenman, a 75-yer-old Vietnam veteran who served 22 years and received medals for valor, in speaking about how US border agents physically brutalized him for asking a simple question about his rights.
“They’re not trying to restrain me, they’re trying to hurt me.”
“Ever since then, I’ve realized that our country is not nearly as free and democratic like we might think.”
This man still suffers from nightmares and has continuous pains in his hands from the incident, stating he can’t even pick up a pencil.
He filed a complaint with U.S. Customs and Border Protection but has never gotten an answer.
The government treats our borders like Constitution-free zones and this is the result…where our most beloved American brothers and sisters who gave their all for our country can be brutalized by thugs.
When I got to the border crossing where customs officers checked my passport, I was told to pull over into what’s called secondary – a parking area where they search vehicles for contraband. The agent there took my keys and in a gruff voice ordered me to get out of my truck, put my hands on the vehicle, and said he was going to search me. I did exactly as he said, then turned and asked him, in a calm and polite voice, whether he needed some kind of probable cause to search me. He answered “No I don’t!” Then he grabbed me in an arm lock, slammed a pair of handcuffs down on my wrists hard enough to split the skin, and pushed my wrists up behind my neck so far that my shoulders started to go out of joint. It hurt so badly I started screaming “Please stop, please stop, you’re hurting me.” I wasn’t resisting at all, but he just kept on while I cried out in pain.
Next the officer marched me to a holding cell. There he picked me up by the seat of my pants and slammed my head onto the tile floor. I blacked out for a moment, then I woke up with a head wound that had peeled a chunk of skin off the top of my head. I was still bleeding when an officer handcuffed me to the side of a bench so tightly that I couldn’t even stand up. And they kept on questioning me, “Why do you come here so often? What are you doing over there?”
I was scared and in pain. When my chest started hurting, I thought I was having a heart attack. I pleaded with the officers to call an ambulance. They finally said they would, but only if I agreed to pay the hospital bill, which I did. The emergency room doctor was so incensed at what happened to me that he called the Nogales city police. The police officer who came to the hospital dutifully took a report and photos of my injuries but told me he had “no authority” down at the border.
I never thought an innocent person, an American citizen, would be beaten up by law enforcement officers, and for no reason. When I asked the officer at the border what cause he had to search me, I didn’t know what the rules were. Since then I’ve been shocked to learn that some of our constitutional protections don’t apply in the same way at the border. CBP officers can search you at a border crossing without any suspicion of wrongdoing and without your consent. And if you live within 25 miles of the border, they can come onto your property without your permission.