Former Arizona Governor Raul Castro, 96, who served as the state’s first and only Hispanic governor, between 1974 and 1977, was detained at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint last month, and forced to stand for over half an hour in 100-degree heat.
Castro was traveling from his home in Nogales, Arizona, on June 12, to celebrate his 96th birthday in Tucson when his vehicle triggered a radiation sensor at the Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 19 north of Tubac. (In case, you are wondering, there are several Border Patrol checkpoints situated many miles north of the U.S./Mexico border.)
Agents stopped the car and sent Castro to another inspection area before questioning him outside the vehicle for 40 to 45 minutes even though he explained that he had undergone hospital testing on his pacemaker the previous day, likely triggering the sensor.
After deciding that the well-decorated public servant, who has also served as U.S. ambassador to Argentina, Bolivia and El Salvador, wasn’t some illegal immigrant planning on blowing up Flagstaff, the Border Patrol let Castro go.
Anne Doan, a family friend from Nogales who was driving Castro to the birthday luncheon in Tucson, wrote a letter to the Nogales International newspaper recounting the incident and blasting the Border Patrol for its treatment of Castro.
“I felt the agents had no regard for the governor’s background or age or physical condition,” Doan wrote. “I was embarrassed as I watched the governor being needlessly treated like a nuclear threat.”
In the letter, Doan said that after Castro was sent to a secondary inspection, the former governor was told to stand under a tent. He was wearing a suit, and the temperature was 100 degrees, but agents refused Doan’s request to let Castro remain in the air-conditioned car, she said. “The agents said (they) could not and that they had a fan under the tent,” she wrote.
After being asked to sign documents, they let Castro leave, she said.
“I feel less safe knowing that time and money is being wasted by agents who must check a box or file a paper knowing full well that there is no threat,” Doan wrote.
How does subjecting a 96-year-old man to such treatment do anything to protect our borders? The people running radiation detectors should know that a pacemaker could set them off. Yes, they can investigate, but no, they should not keep a frail old man standing outside in 100-degree heat.
This incident came two weeks before the Supreme Courtís Arizona v. United States ruling that invalidated most of Arizonaís controversial anti-immigration law, SB 1070, and it hardly seems a coincidence that a person of Hispanic descent would receive this kind of treatment in a state that appears to pride itself on its xenophobia.
Indeed, I wonder if the citizens of Arizona would nowadays even consider electing a Mexico-born man to the position of governor? Certainly not if Sheriff Joe Arpaio had anything to do with it. Times have certainly changed in Arizona, and not for the better.
What do you think? Did those Border Patrol officers act inappropriately?
Photo Credit: Sami Hamed