Federal border patrol officials plan to conduct another five checkpoints in New Hampshire in 2018, and the New Hampshire State Police will take a hands-off approach to them, according to emails obtained under the New Hampshire Right to Know Law.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, which has secured rulings in a state court contesting the constitutionality of the checkpoints, released the emails this week.
Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of ACLU-New Hampshire, said the ACLU filed information requests with state police, Woodstock police, Thornton police and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for any information in their records about the checkpoints.
The ACLU wants to know whether state or local police are collaborating with the Border Patrol.
“(The Border Patrol) is forcing people to stop; these individuals are being temporarily seized, and they’re forced to have an interaction with federal immigration police,” said Bissonnette. “That’s not how we do things in this country.”
Customs and Border Patrol did not immediately respond to an email. But the agency has previously said that checkpoints are “a critical enforcement tool for the enforcement of our immigration laws.”
Border Patrol agents have manned previous checkpoints that have taken place on Interstate 93 near the Woodstock-Thornton border, the most recent over the Memorial Day weekend.
In an Aug. 27 email to headquarters, a lieutenant based out of the North Country notified his captain that U.S. Border Patrol informed him of the six checkpoints, the first over the Memorial Day weekend.
Noting the ACLU’s involvement in the checkpoint issue, Lt. Gary Prince asked for guidance.
“The guidance on Border Patrol checkpoints is the same,” wrote Maj. Matthew Shapiro. “We are not going to be involved in the planning, preparation or facilitation of such checkpoint. But that being said, we will answer calls for service from Border Patrol like any other customer.”
This past Memorial Day, U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Swanton Sector arrested 17 illegal aliens and seized drug paraphernalia and small amounts of marijuana, hash oil and THC vape oil. Local police did not participate in the Memorial Day enforcement, and the Border Patrol made no mention of anyone being charged with drug crimes.
Last year, Woodstock police participated in an August checkpoint alongside the Border Patrol. Border Patrol arrested 25 illegal alliens. Woodstock police logged 16 arrests for drug possession charges, after a Border Patrol dog sniffed out small amounts of drugs, mostly marijuana. A judge threw out the arrests, ruling that the searches violated the New Hampshire Constitution.
Woodstock Police Chief Ryan Oleson wrote the ACLU to say that on May 23 Border Patrol Agent Paul Kuhn visited the Woodstock police station to inform them that a checkpoint would run from Sunday through Tuesday.
“Other than that the Woodstock Police Department had no correspondence or involvement with the Border Patrol checkpoint,” he wrote.
Bissonnette said the Border Patrol is free to ask if they are in the United States lawfully, but one is not required to answer.
If a driver and passengers say they are citizens, the Border Patrol should let them go. If they refuse to answer, the Border Patrol can detain them for “a limited period of time” to determine their status, he said.