Former Arizona Gov. Raul Castro, who in the 1970s served as the state's first and only Hispanic governor, was detained at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint after the vehicle he was traveling in triggered a radiation sensor.
Castro told The Associated Press on Thursday that he believed the June 12 stop at a checkpoint on Interstate 19 was prompted by the monitor being set off, not by his appearance.
"I don't think being Hispanic had anything to do with it," the 96-year-old Castro said.
Castro's wife, however, is calling for changes in Border Patrol procedures. She said the Border Patrol officials need to use "more common sense" when they encounter elderly people who have undergone medical procedures.
"It's traumatic, to say the least, for an old man," Patricia Castro said.
The Arizona Republic reported Thursday that Castro was detained as he was traveling from his home in Nogales, Ariz., to celebrate his 96th birthday in Tucson. The Arizona Daily Star first reported the story.
The Mexican-born Castro was governor of Arizona from 1974 to 1977.
Castro said agents questioned him outside his vehicle in 100-degree heat. He said he explained to them that he had undergone hospital testing on his pacemaker the previous day, likely triggering the sensor.
Castro said he was detained for 40 to 45 minutes; the federal agency said it lasted 10 minutes.
"CBP detection equipment at the I-19 Border Patrol checkpoint discovered a possible trace of radiation on Governor Castro," the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Arizona said in a statement. "As required by policy, agents must identify and resolve all sources of radiation, regardless of the circumstances. In this instance, CBP agents were able to identify and resolve the source of the radiation reading. Governor Castro was delayed for 10 minutes... CBP regrets any inconvenience the delay may have caused."
A call to Border Patrol officials for additional comments weren't immediately returned Thursday.
Castro 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.
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.