TUCSON -- The ACLU of Arizona today filed notices of two claims (available here)with the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) on behalf of an Arizona woman seeking monetary damages for egregious and repeated rights violations by U.S. Border Patrol agents. 

The first claim arises out of an incident on May 21, 2013, in which Border Patrol agents stopped Clarisa Christiansen and her two young children without cause while the family was on their way home from school. After Ms. Christiansen demanded an explanation, agents threatened to use a Taser on her and then threatened to cut her out of her seatbelt with a knife. Agents then slashed a rear tire and left Ms. Christiansen and her children stranded on a hot desert road with a flat and no explanation. 

In October 2013, the ACLU submitted a complaint to DHS oversight agencies on behalf of Ms. Christiansen and four others who were subjected to unlawful “roving patrol” stops by Border Patrol.  More than a year and a half later, those agencies have yet to respond.

The second claim was filed in response to years of unauthorized and unlawful entries by Border Patrol agents onto the family’s private property west of Tucson, Ariz. Border Patrol helicopters routinely buzz the family’s home at extremely low altitudes, causing dwellings to shake, and often disrupting the family’s sleep with deafening noise and bright lights. Agents have repeatedly entered the Christiansen’s property on foot and on motorized vehicles, despite numerous “No Trespassing” signs posted on the family’s land. 

The Christiansen’s property is located roughly forty miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, well outside of the area in which immigration officials can lawfully enter private property.  Still, Border Patrol blatantly ignores the law and the Christiansen’s property rights, subjecting them to constant harassment and intrusion on their own land.

Federal law currently grants Border Patrol authority to enter onto private property within twenty-five miles of the border “to prevent illegal entry.” Agents are further empowered to conduct interior enforcement within 100 miles of any national boundary, an area that encompasses most of the U.S. population. The ACLU and the federal government have documented countless instances of agents ignoring the limits of their authority in the course of these operations, with near total impunity.

If the government does not respond to the claims within six months, Ms. Christiansen can proceed with a lawsuit under the FTCA to recover monetary damages for her ongoing ordeal.

Last year, the ACLU recorded an interview with Ms. Christiansen, which is available HERE