The Road to Nowhere (Near the Border)

Friday, September 27, 2013


Terry Bressi is a staff engineer at the University of Arizona's planetary lab. To get to Kitt Peak National Observatory, he must take an east to west running highway, which has an in-country immigration checkpoint. Bressi estimates he’s been stopped over 300 times at immigration checkpoints along this road, which at no point crosses the border, since 2008. Brooke talks with Bressi about how he began videotaping his interactions with the border agents. (The videos have become something of an internet sensation).


Terry Bressi

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [13]

Courtney from Lawrence, Kan.


Terry looks to be a middle aged white dude. Your point is?

@Dave Copeland

You're right that journalists tend to report about themselves at times, but I think you're wrong about this not being in the bailiwick of OTM. The issue of journalists being stopped and held during border crossings, and their electronic devices accessed, is a very real problem. See the cases of Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald's partner. While Sarah's story did not appear related to her being a journalist, it does show how easily private (and protected) information can be taken by governments through these questionable stop and seizures. Journalists phones and electronics being seized, for any reason, strikes me as being an important subject for a group focused on media reporting to cover.

As for Terry, he is documenting and posting his experiences with the border patrol through video, pictures and written accounts. He is either a citizen journalist, a citizen activist, or something in between. No matter what, he is producing media related to a particular subject. And this is On The Media.

Oct. 02 2013 03:24 PM
Rafael from Baltimore, MD

I would add if I were Mr. Bressi a textual quotes of the Fourth and Sixth Amendments. The Border Agent, by asking if he's an American citizen is implying he's violating US immigration laws. Therefore, Mr. Bressi can demand to be told what he is being acused of. In addition, if the Border Agent thinks he's engaged in human trafficking, he or she needs to get a warrant, per the Fourth Amendment.

I think Terry Bressi's story is related to Sarah Abdulrahman's(sp?)story as these are two US citizens, whose rights are being violated in violation of the founding documents of this country.

Oct. 02 2013 12:44 PM
Dave Copeland from Boston

While the series is good and the reporting important, the connection between your show's focus and the series seems tenuous at best. Seems like the old adage "news is what happens to journalists and their families..." Would have let it pass if it were only one segment in one week, built now it seems like overkill.

Pass this off to NPR's news shows and get back to covering the subjects we expect to hear when we tune into OTM.

Oct. 02 2013 10:31 AM
Curt from San Francisco

Great series. You may also be interested in a story of how another CBP program has been targeting a group of (largely) conservative, well-off white males a thousand miles from any border. Not surprisingly, this group is as insulted as any other at tier treatment, but they have a advocacy group that includes a majority of the members of the House. So far, their attempts at investigation have been equally stonewalled, including CBP's efforts to reclassify the documents in a FOIA request.

These are private aircraft pilots, their advocacy group is AOPA, and their caucus is the GA Caucus. Read about it here:

Or if the site does not allow links, google:
Congress seeks investigation into CBP searches

Sep. 30 2013 12:31 PM
Concerned Minnesotan

I have to agree with Terry Bressi's pushback against the CBP on his oft-traveled state highway. As someone who lives in Minnesota, a state that has an international border that used to be calm and easy to cross and has become extremely unpleasant to, I sympathize with his irritation. After watching a few of his videos, however, I am struck by the degree to which he engages law enforcement officers with an indecorous tone. He could just as easily get badge numbers, names, supervisors' names, and other pertinent information if he would adopt a less curt approach. You catch more bees with honey.

Sep. 30 2013 11:02 AM
Ironclad from Texas

Wow - another stab at "poor Muslims getting harassed" today on the program. Wonder why this group gets "special attention"? Last week we had the targeted murder in Kenya followed by a bombing at a church in Pakistan. Today we learn there was a slaughter in Nigeria of sleeping students. All by the same group.

And it appears now that US citizens of Somali descent were probably involved in Kenya.

Keep up the crocodile tears for the "harassment"

Sep. 29 2013 06:13 PM
N. from NJ

I wrote a version of the following message to my Senators and Representative. I think it's a good place to start to affect change. At the end of the note I included links to the two stories, about Terry Bressi and Sarah Abdurrahman.

-- I'm writing regarding the Customs and Border Patrol agency after hearing the outrageous practices witnessed/experienced by public radio reporter, Sarah Abdurrahman and her traveling group, at the U.S.-Canada border. Lack of transparency and accountability in such a massive agency and by agents with such power is simply un-American.

Please begin a process of compelling these agencies under Homeland Security to have transparency and accountability and have clear and observed guidelines for the both the agencies and for citizens to know what their rights are to prevent ever mounting abuses.

I look forward to staying aware of what you're position is on this topic and what actions you will take to address this growing problem. I would appreciate a response to this message. --

Sep. 29 2013 11:26 AM

I have also been stopped at this checkpoint near Kitt Peak (everybody has to stop)many times. Sometimes it's just checking that you're not carrying loads of people/drugs/weapons/whatever, sometimes is harassing. When you go through the checkpoint and get followed for 5 miles by the BP, it's harassment. I would stop as soon as I realized who was tailgaiting me and ask if they need help. They soon stop following. Most of these agents are kids, I would guess under 30 years old, and they seem tense and scared a good part of the time. As well they should, since they could be shot at from any vehicle.

Sep. 29 2013 10:24 AM
W Coley from Santa Monica, CA

Thanks for this important series! I'm wondering what US citizens and residents should do when confronted by CBP like this. Checkpoint USA proposes an interesting approach but is it only possible for white men (the protagonists in most of these videos)? Certainly Sarah Abdurrahman's awful experience points to the CBP's reliance on racial profiling. Based on your interview with Lee Hamilton, maybe we should add our Congressional representatives to speed dial on our phones and/or memorize their Twitter handles to tweet for help (just before our phones are confiscated)?

Sep. 28 2013 05:51 PM

John from NY,
Do you believe a "terrorist" would answer border patrol questions truthfully?

And like the interview said Mr Bressi doesn't look for these interactions. He only wants to commute unmolested.

But you probably think "Stop and Frisk" was reasonable to

Sep. 28 2013 05:45 PM
Linda Theophilus from Pittsburgh, PA

Border Control can do searches within 100 miles of the US border. That is new, ie. about 10 years old. It is not well known. Thank you to Terry and Brooke for bringing attention to this.

Sep. 28 2013 05:27 PM
rickevans033050 from 10473

@John from New York "

"Many of us have driven through DWI, registration/inspection, immigration (hundreds of miles from a border) and dragnet check points "

Have you been stopped 300 times? The last time I was stopped at a DUI/DWI checkpoint was by NYPD in Brooklyn more than 25 years ago. Sure it was a quick flashlight in eye check. However if I had to wait on of those lines several times per month I would be just a little bit more annoyed. Americans shouldn't have to live like Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Then again, neither should Palestinians.

Sep. 28 2013 08:45 AM
John from New York

On occasion a public radio article seems to be way off base, somewhat offensive…… How could you compare Terry Bressi whose videos are clearly out to stir up trouble by not answering a simple question to an identified U.S. family crossing a border check point and being harassed? Many of us have driven through DWI, registration/inspection, immigration (hundreds of miles from a border) and dragnet check points with usually a simple hello or quick look and question and on your way. Why give Terry any publicity wasting taxpayer dollars while he is clearly out to agitate the authorities. What do you expect law enforcement to do but push back, they would not be doing their job if they just let him through. Imagine a terrorist just not answering the inspectors question and being let through.

Sep. 27 2013 10:10 PM

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