All Access Pass to I-19 Border Checkpoint
Reporter: Valerie Cavazos
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - KGUN9 OYS is granted an all access pass to the I-19 border checkpoint. The same one countless drivers have complained about. The same one where former Arizona Governor, 96-year-old Raul Castro, was held in triple digit heat for nearly a ½-hour.
Talking exclusively to 9OYS, Castro told us his pacemaker triggered an alarm and that sent border patrol agents into action and sent him into the heat. He contacted 9OYS because he's concerned about others with special needs trying to make their way along I-19.
KGUN9 worked two weeks to get answers and in cooperation with the Border Patrol, 9OYS was given an exclusive interview and access.
Agent Brent Cagen first took us to the primary inspection area, located under the huge canopy. That's where border patrol dogs weave around cars to sniff out any hidden humans or drugs -- while agents ask passengers their citizenship and use devises to detect dangerous substances -- such as radiation.
"Even a mere suspicion that something maybe off -- they will refer that vehicle over to the secondary inspection area," said Agent Cagen. That area is where all passengers are separated from their vehicles -- just in case there is a weapon inside. "If that opportunity arises for the individual to grab that weapon -- the outcome could be highly catastrophic. Those drivers and passengers are separated from their vehicles to determine where those sources are coming from." Even those passengers who are have special needs. A huge fan that blows out a cool mist sits under an awning and are the only means of some relief from the scorching heat.
KGUN9 reporter Valerie Cavazos said, "Even 10 minutes out here some people would say is too long for somebody with special needs." Cagen responds, "We have to keep everyone safe in all regards."
True, but KGUN 9 wanted to know if agents can use their discretion in allowing people, who do not appear to be a threat, to remain in their air conditioned vehicles.
Agent Cagen: 'By policy we have to do what policy states to complete that inspection."
Cavazos: "And they cannot use their discretion. The agents must follow policy."
Agent Cagen: "Well that I do not know. If there is an instance of a medical emergency, there are obviously changes that can be made."
9OYS also wanted to know whether change could include replacing the awning with an air conditioned trailer, similar to the one just yards away that's used as a holding cell for illegal immigrants and suspected criminals? Cagen said, "I don't know." Cavazos asked, "Is it a possibility?" He responded, "I guess, it could be. Anything is possible with Congress and they make the decisions."
During the hour that KGUN9 had access to the area -- several drivers were told to pull over to the secondary inspection area. Dogs sniffed inside and out the cars and agents pulled luggage from the trunk of one vehicle. "They want to identify the source," said Cagen. The entire process can take anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes and each case logged by an agent.
Sometimes a vehicle has to be scanned. "We will run (an X-ray truck) by their vehicle and it will take an x-ray of the contents inside the vehicle," he said. Agents are looking for drugs. "Marijuana. Anything that looks out of place."
After the pass, agents examine areas that show up suspicious. And only when all security measures are met are they allowed to drive away.
Cagen said all shuttles are stopped and every person is checked for citizenship. And if they entered the U-S illegally, then they are moved to a holding cell in an air conditioned trailer while agents conduct criminal background checks in another mobile unit.
Agents move fast as the line of cars and trucks continue to pass through the checkpoint. Cagen said the I-19 location is the busiest checkpoint in the nation.