Former Gov. Raul Castro was recently detained at a Border Patrol checkpoint in southern Arizona in 100-degree heat after the vehicle he was traveling in triggered a radiation sensor.
The Arizona Republic reports that the detention was made around midday on June 12 at a checkpoint on Interstate 19 north of Tubac as Castro was traveling from his home in Nogales to celebrate his 96th birthday in Tucson.
The Mexican-born Castro was governor of Arizona from 1974 to 1977. He was the state's first and only Hispanic governor.
Castro said agents sent him to another inspection area and continued to question him outside his vehicle even though he explained that he had undergone hospital testing on his pacemaker the previous day, likely triggering the sensor.
Castro told The Associated Press on Thursday that he believed the stop was prompted by a monitor being set off, not on his appearance. "I don't think being Hispanic had anything to do with it," Castro said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials confirmed in an email that they stopped Castro for "a possible trace of radiation" and said its policy requires agents to "identify and resolve all sources of radiation regardless of the circumstances," which officials did in this case.
Castro said he was detained for 40 to 45 minutes, but the federal agency said it lasted 10 minutes.
The former governor downplayed the detention, noting that he wasn't pleased with the way he was treated but didn't file a complaint.
He said that he understands Border Patrol agents are "there to do a job" but that they need a better system for dealing with elderly people. He said he was exposed to the sun during part of the questioning.
"Once I identified myself, who I was, and that I had been to the doctor, I was under medical care, I have a pacemaker on my heart, (I would have thought) that they would have been more considerate and said, `Keep on going.' But that didn't happen," Castro said.
Castro's wife is calling for changes in Border Patrol procedures.
"It's traumatic, to say the least, for an old man," said Castro's wife, Patricia.
She said the Border Patrol officials need to use "more common sense" when they encounter elderly people who have undergone medical procedures.
Alessandra Soler, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Arizona, said Castro's experience with agents was not unique.
"This happens all the time in terms of these types of indiscriminate stops of individuals not suspected of any wrongdoing," Soler said.
She said agents should have used discretion instead of relying solely on technology to decide to detain Castro.
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com