A San Diego middle school teacher refused to answer a border patrol agent’s question regarding her citizenship at a New Mexico checkpoint and was briefly detained. Her family members recorded the incident that has since gone viral, with her proclamation that “enforcing racist laws perpetuates institutional racism.”


According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Shane Parmely was driving through New Mexico when she was stopped at an immigration checkpoint–a common setup within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border in southern border states. Then the following exchange took place:

“Citizens?” an agent asked her as she drove up to the checkpoint.

“Are we crossing a border?” Parmely responded.

“No. Are you United States citizens?” he repeated.

“Are we crossing a border?” Parmely repeated. “I’ve never been asked if I’m a citizen before when I’m traveling down the road.”

As the agent continued to repeat his question, Parmely told him that he could ask her the question, but she didn’t have to answer.

“You are required to answer an immigration question,” the agent said. “You are not required to answer any other questions.”

When Parmely refused to answer the question, the agent told her that she was being detained for an immigration inspection.

“So if I just come through and say, ‘Yes, I’m a citizen,’ I can just go ahead?” Parmely asked.

“If the agent is justified by the answer, then yes,” the agent responded.

“So if I have an accent, and I’m brown, can I just say, ‘Yes,’ and go ahead or do I have to prove it?” she asked. “I have a bunch of teacher friends who are sick of their kids being discriminated against.”

“OK, I’m not discriminating against anybody,” the agent said.

At this point, Parmely and members of her family were detained for about an hour. But they were eventually released even though she continued to be uncooperative and never answered the citizenship question.

Note that Parmely didn’t object to the question on constitutional grounds, though she had none to stand on in any event. The U.S. Supreme Court in a 1976 decision (U.S. vs. Martinez-Fuerte) gave border patrol agents authority to operate checkpoints within 100 miles of the border and to ask questions about citizenship without warrants. Even the ACLU’s own fliers reinforce such authority.

To be sure, many motorists view these checkpoints as time-wasting hassles and, given the previous administration’s near refusal to enforce immigration laws, a pointless exercise. There is a such a checkpoint on the 5 Freeway near San Clemente, California, about 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, and it is often used to stop all northbound traffic so agents can ask a question or do a quick eyeball inspection. It is an inconvenience (especially when you’re running late), but there is nothing unlawful, unconstitutional, and especially “racist” about its existence.

Parmely, who according to her school web site teaches English, arts, and theater, apparently views immigration laws from a purely social justice warrior perspective. In one of her exchanges on Facebook, she doubled down on the “racism” claim with this nugget: “What was the point of refusing to move to the back of the bus?”