Videos posted to Facebook by a San Diego teacher showing her refusing to answer questions about her citizenship when stopped by agents at a Border Patrol checkpoint in New Mexico, several miles from the border, have gone viral.
Shane Parmely, a 43-year-old middle school teacher with the San Diego Unified School District, and her children were stopped at the checkpoint while driving on Friday, July 21. She recorded her interactions with the Border Patrol agents and posted them to Facebook.
Parmely and her children were eventually allowed to leave, after more than an hour, but she never answered whether she was in fact a citizen.
A Supreme Court ruling found that Border Patrol agents are allowed to have checkpoints within 100 miles of the border and to ask questions about citizenship without warrants. The agents are allowed to detain a person at the checkpoint for only the time necessary for the person’s citizenship to be determined.
“Enforcing racist laws perpetuates institutional racism,” Parmely wrote on Facebook. “I’m sick of helping perpetuate racist laws just because I’m not inconvenienced by them.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Parmely Says in the Video That She Has ‘Teacher Friends Who Are Sick of Their Kids Being Discriminated Against’
Shane Parmely posted a series of videos, which you can watch above, of her interactions on July 21 with Border Patrol agents at a checkpoint in New Mexico, several miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. Parmely said the checkpoint was on Interstate 10 west, past El Paso before Demming, New Mexico.
The San Diego teacher wrote on Facebook on the first video, “Basically, make sure you have a full tank of gas to keep your air conditioner running, some water and some snacks. I also recommend a pillow cuz this was a great place to take a nap. And they do have bathrooms in the cells where they hold people when they pull them out of their cars.”
Parmely can be seen in the video being stopped at the checkpoint and asked by an agent if she and her children are citizens. She asks the agent if they are crossing a border, and he says no. She then asks why she is being questioned about her citizenship and refuses to answer. The agent then says she is being detained for an immigration inspection.
“You are required to answer an immigration question,” the agent tells her. “You are not required to answer any other questions.”
Parmely responds, “So if I just come through and say, ‘Yes, I’m a citizen,’ I can just go ahead”
The agent said that if the agent is justified by the answer, he or she can allow the person to continue.
“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.”
In another part of the encounter she recorded, Parmely’s son asks to go to the bathroom.
“The supervisor said my son couldn’t go to the bathroom unless I told them whether or not we are citizens,” Parmely wrote on Facebook. “She pointed to a bathroom past the checkpoint and told us we couldn’t use it without answering.”
Her son was later escorted to a bathroom by another agent.
Parmely is eventually allowed to leave after more than an hour. In the comment on the final part of the video, she criticized the border agent’s “nationalist propaganda,” as he allowed her to leave.
“Seriously though, this guy interrupted my nap,” she wrote on Facebook. “And what’s up with this dude’s straight up nationalist propaganda? The philosophy governing our southern border (cuz there ain’t none of this shit along the northern border or eastern or western) can be reduced to: Fascism > Terrorism. As if these are the only two choices.”
2. She Says They Saw People in 2 Other Cars Detained & ‘Only Saw Brown People Get Asked to Show Papers’
Parmely told KGTV she filmed the encounter because she wanted to bring attention to what she believes is discrimination and profiling at inland immigration checkpoints.
“My entire life, everybody just got waved through. There was no stopping,” Parmely told the news station. “We would have no civil rights if people didn’t question authority or challenge the status quo.”
Parmely’s friend and fellow teacher, Gretel Rodriguez, told the news station she wouldn’t dare protest like Parmely did.
“Hopefully, she’s starting someone else to say, ‘hey, (this) needs to stop,'” Rodriguez said. “If everyone’s being asked and everyone is being interrogated I might accept it, but even then, we probably realize it’s not right.”
Parmely told KGTV, “If it would inconvenience too many white people then the system would change, and that’s really the only time anything changes is when too many white people get inconvenienced, and it’s not worth enforcing the racist policy anymore.”
3. The Border Patrol Says the Checkpoints Are a ‘Critical Tool for the Enforcement of Our Nation’s Immigration Laws’
The Border Patrol is authorized to set up inland checkpoints to verify citizenship based on a 1976 Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Martinez-Fuerte.
“The Border Patrol’s routine stopping of a vehicle at a permanent checkpoint located on a major highway away from the Mexican border for brief questioning of the vehicle’s occupants is consistent with the Fourth Amendment, and the stops and questioning may be made at reasonably located checkpoints in the absence of any individualized suspicion that the particular vehicle contains illegal aliens,” the ruling said.
In a statement to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Border Patrol spokesman Mark Endicott said:
Border Patrol checkpoints are a critical tool for the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws. At a Border Patrol checkpoint, an agent may question a vehicle’s occupants about their citizenship, place of birth, and request document proof of immigration status, how legal status was obtained and make quick observations of what is in plain view in the interior of the vehicle.
During the course of the immigration inspection, if an occupant refuses to answer an agent’s questions, the agent may detain the driver for a reasonable amount of time until he or she can make a determination regarding the occupant’s immigration status.
Videos like Parmely’s, showing people protesting against the Border Patrol checkpoints and refusing to answer questions, have been posted on YouTube for several years. You can watch a compilation of other encounters below:
According to the ACLU, Border Patrol agents can stop vehicles at inland checkpoints to “ask a few, limited questions to verify citizenship of the vehicles’ occupants and visualy inspect the exterior of a vehicle.”
The ACLU says in a flyer, “Agents may send any vehicle to a secondary inspection area for the same purpose: brief questioning and visual inspection. Agents should not ask questions unrelated to verifying citizenship, nor can they hold you for an extended time without case.”
According to the ACLU, “Even though you always have the right to remain silent, if you don’t answer questions to establish your citizenship, officials may detain you longer in order to verify your immigration status.” The civil rights organization also emphasizes that you should “never flee a checkpoint!”
4. She Is an English Learner Support Teacher & Recently Spoke Out About Budget Cuts That Would Hurt Her Students
Shane Parmely is a teacher at Bell Middle School in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego. She teaches English, art and theater, according to the school’s website.
Parmely said on her Linkedin profile that she has worked for the San Diego Unified School District since 2001. She has worked for eight years at Bell as an ELST teacher, after five years as an English teacher at Sierra High School.
She graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 1996 with degrees in communications, film production and fine arts. She then completed a master’s degree in education, curriculum and teaching at the University of San Diego in 2007.
She recently stood up for her English-learner students at a San Diego school board meeting, speaking out against budget cuts that would hurt those children. You can watch video from that above.
Parmely has also been active in several political movements, taking part in the Women’s March, and advocating for transgender and other LGBT rights, prison reform and other social issues, according to her Facebook page.
Parmely ran for the position of president of the San Diego Education Association, the local teachers’ union, in 2016, according to its website.
“I’m an activist in state/national organizations fighting corporate education reform, high-stakes testing, and privatization,” she said.
“Our union needs a president that knows organizing is not emails, website posts, and speeches but is actual face-to-face conversations with members which takes time, energy, and work,” she wrote. “And that’s the kind of work I like to do. If elected President, we WILL have a well-planned and executed organizing campaign that is highly publicized to support our bargaining team. The District WILL know we are committed to winning a contract that makes SDUSD one of the best districts for both teachers and students.”
5. Some Have Praised Her for Her Protest Against ‘Unjust’ Border Patrol Practies,
While Others Say She’s Un-American & Should Be Fired
Parmely’s Facebook videos have received both comments of support and others of anger, with some even calling for her to be fired from her job as a teacher.
“Thank you. You are teaching your children a lesson in standing up for other people’s rights, and questioning authority in a collected manner, not resorting to agressive behavior,” wrote Sharon Guzman Melgar. “Maybe we do need to find more effective ways to keep us safe from harm, without giving up liberties which make this country great.”
Gueni Zin wrote, “I don’t know you, but I commend you! I was not always a citizen of this nation, so I had many uncomfortable encounters with immigration officials and they terrify me. And I saw other immigrants who were not white like me be treated horribly. Thank you for standing up for them!!”
Michelle Bjorklund wrote, “You brought up an excellent point about northern states not having these border stops. I grew up in Michigan (and currently live in New Mexico) and travel back there often enough to know they don’t have these check points up there even though it is within 100 miles of the border.”
Herron Carrillo wrote, “Thank you so much for this and for standing up against oppression and for recognizing the discrimination against Brown people. You are officially invited to the cookout!!”
Others disagreed with the positive comments.
Peggi Vincent wrote, “Self centered, entitled, law breaking, tantrum throwing, fake grievance, middle age, libtard, hormonal FAME SEEKER. Sad.”
Jamie Bevan wrote, “I’m SICK of people claiming that law enforcement is the problem. Until of course you need them,” asking what the point of her not answering was.
“What was the point of refusing to move to the back of the bus?” Parmely responded.
Bevan replied, “That was totally different. Sounds like you wanted to prove something. I found it disrespectful to people doing their job and what they are sworn to do.” She added that Parmely being disrespectful was promoting violence against police.
Parmely said in response:
I’d rather be disrespectful to officers enforcing racist law than quietly help perpetuate it. We are teachers and get disrespected all the time. Sometimes, rightfully so because we perpetuate racist policies in our schools. And I applaud students who stand up to institutional racism and disrespect people in authority who are maintaining the system.
They never asked for my ID. They never asked my kids their names. They never asked my kids any questions BECAUSE I’m a white female. This is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than the way my Latino friends have been treated at these checkpoints.
Your logic means that you side with slave catchers, police that attacked striking workers, police that arrested, beat and force fed suffragettes, and Texas Rangers that lynched hundreds of Mexicans after the US gained Texas and Arizona.
The reaction also spread to Twitter, with some calling Parmely a hero and others tweeting at the San Diego school district asking for her to lose her job.
Todd Simon wrote on Twitter, “Shane Parmely a teacher at Bell Middle School in SD who showed disrespect 4 law enforcement in video has no business teaching kids anything … With Teachers like Shane Parmely it’s no surprise that kids disrespect law enforcement She should fired from her teaching job @sdschools”
Another person wrote, “I wouldn’t let my children be taught by teachers like Shane Parmely She is part of what is wrong with America liberals causing problems.”
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