On June 2, 1993, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) federal agents along with two Big Horn County, Wyoming deputies raided the home of Ramon and Elvia Castaneda.
The deputies were there only to assist INS agents and basically got caught in the "crossfire" of federal in competency and arrogance. The Castaneda v USA case does something for all Americans that has never been done before; it answers the question; who is the ultimate law enforcement authority in this country?
Big Horn County and its officers were sued in this case because they trusted INS agents to be acting within proper parameters of the law. However, INS agents failed to do their homework and did not even have a warrant.
So the INS asked for assistance from the Big Horn County Sheriff's office to raid the home (late at night) of the Castaneda family to capture some illegal aliens. The Sheriff's office cooperated with the INS and in doing so got them in trouble. However, there was one other problem with the federal agents' homework. The Castanedas were American citizens.
A minor dispute still remains unsettled as to how the armed officers entered the Castaneda home. The Castanedas claimed the agents simply barged in without knocking or appropriately announcing their intentions. The government claims their courteous announcements and knocks were ignored so they entered the home anyway. Regardless, the Castanedas claimed to be asleep at the time of the raid, which would seem to be reasonable thing to be doing late at night.
The Castanedas filed a lawsuit with a host of defendants including Big Horn County and Federal officials. The case was cut and dry. The feds were wrong and their actions were untenable, The Castanedas could have sat back and waited greedily for their attorneys to fill in the amount of their checks, but they wanted to do something else. As part of the settlement the Castanedas wanted some insurance that this type of governmental abuse would not recur or ever happen to others.
To their everlasting credit, the Castanedas took a rather nominal amount of cash in exchange for a policy, which seemed to them, the best "check and balance" systems that would essentially stop the federal government from anymore potential abuses.
Amazingly and quite simply, the Castanedas demanded, as part of their federal lawsuit settlement, that the Big Horn County Sheriff's office devise a policy that required all federal agencies to check with the Sheriff before they could take any action in Big Horn County.
Coincidentally, this policy fell on the lap of Sheriff Dave Mattis who was not even Sheriff at the time of the raid. However, Sheriff Mattis agreed with the policy and helped develop this most novel and unique agreement that the lawyers of the United States Justice Department also signed. However, the Justice Department took steps to keep this agreement secret and undisclosed. Imagine a small town sheriff in a county of only 12,000 people being the overseer of federal agencies within his county!
Is this policy an unusual novelty or a procedure whose time has finally come as an essential and vital part of protecting and serving our citizens? Why would this policy only be beneficial in Big Horn County and not in every in our nations?
Ironically, U.S. Congressman Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho) considered proposing legislation that would have established a similar policy for the entire nation at just about the same exact time this settlement was being reached. The Justice Department, FBI and other federal agencies fought and lobbied tooth and nail to stop Chenoweth's proposal.
Specifically, the policy to be enforced requires all "federal law enforcement personnel to notify the Sheriff's Office in advance of any federal law enforcement operation in Big Horn County, Wyoming." Several other guidelines must be followed in regards to showing proper paperwork and the establishments of probable cause to be justify federal law enforcement presence.
What would it hurt (and who would it benefit) if the FBI, IRS, BATF, etc. were doing this in every county? Why would the federal government oppose such common sense practices that they should already be doing anyways? The end result is added safety and protection to the citizens. The only thing preventing this policy from bring realized nationwide is the Sheriff himself failing to take a strong stand and the arrogance and pride of federal agencies.
Two and a half years ago congress conducted hearings regarding the abuse of the IRS. Citizens and IRS employees alike testified about IRS criminality. After any Sheriff has been made aware of the abusive history of the IRS, the crimes committed by the AFT and FBI at WACO and Ruby Ridge, how could he comply with protecting and serving his constituents if he allowed these federal agencies unbridled authority in his county?
The United States Constitution (Article 1 Section 8) grants 4 law enforcement categories to the federal government: felonies committed on the high seas, counterfeiting, postal issues and treason. Protecting our nation's borders would also be an appropriate constitutional federal obligation. But many of these federal agencies have become powers unto themselves and are the tails wagging the dog.
Many of these federal agencies have lost sight of their true missions and have gotten for whom they work and who they are suppose to serve and protect. Now we are coming to the point of being forced to turn to our Sheriffs and local authorities to protect and serve us from federal "protectors".
In fact, what does a Sheriff who knows and understands the significance of the Second Amendment and his oath of office do when agents come in his jurisdiction to confiscate guns of law abiding citizens? Castaneda v USA proves the Sheriff is the answer, Sheriff Mattis has proven it works and common sense proves all Sheriffs should be doing it.
Why is the Sheriff the ultimate and leading law enforcement authority in America? Because he is elected by the ultimate power source, the people, and the answers directly to them. He is not an appointed bureaucrat and lives in the community he serves. He is in all matters, the people's defender.