Three Children Among 25 Undocumented Immigrants Detained At N.H. Highway Checkpoint

Aug 30, 2017

A checkpoint on I-93 in Woodstock operated by Border Patrol agents resulted in the detention of 25 undocumented immigrants.
Credit Courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

U.S. Border Patrol agents staged a weekend checkpoint on Interstate 93 in Lincoln, New Hampshire over the weekend, resulting in the detention of 25 undocumented immigrants, including several minors.

Agents say the roadblock is the first major enforcement action of its type in five years in New Hampshire, and that more checkpoints can be expected in the wake of an executive order from the Trump Administration. 

This story has been updated.

At least three of the undocumented immigrants arrested during the checkpoint were minors, including two 11th graders and a 7th grader.

The students, who are among the detainees originating from Colombia, all attended Excel Academy Charter Schools in the Boston-area.

The school’s CEO, Owen Stearns, describes the students as “exceptional kids” that participate in athletics and are leaders in their class. 

Stearns says the school, where approximately 80% of the student body is Latino, has been on alert since the 2016 election.

“I think we sort of girding ourselves for this and are now very sad and distressed and angry that it happened,” he said. “And also fearful that it may continue to happen and this may not be the last time.”

“We have recently received new executive orders,” says Bradley Curtis, division chief for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Swanton, Vermont. “We used to do this routinely. They were put on pause for a while, but we are back up and operating.”

In a press release, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says fourteen people were detained for overstaying their visas. Border Patrol agents arrested people from Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico.

“Checkpoints are just one of the tools we utilize to enforce the immigration and other federal laws of our nation,” said Swanton Sector Chief Patrol Agent John C. Pfeifer said in the press release. “In addition to technology, manpower and intelligence, checkpoints help to deny access to major routes of egress away from the border and into our communities in the interior of the U.S.”

The checkpoint also resulted in the seizure of two pounds of marijuana, as well as smaller amounts of cocaine, mushrooms and hash oil, all of which were seized from U.S. citizens, according to the Woodstock Police Department. In addition to the immigration detentions, 32 arrests were made for a range of infractions. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is permitted to operate immigration checkpoints within 100 miles of an international or coastal border, which effectively includes all of New Hampshire.

Civil liberties groups, including the ACLU, argue these checkpoints violate Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizures.

“The Supreme Court has upheld the use of immigration checkpoints, but only insofar as the stops consist only of a brief and limited inquiry into residence status. Checkpoints cannot be primarily used for drug-search or general law enforcement efforts. In practice, however, Border Patrol agents often do not limit themselves to brief immigration inquiries and regularly conduct criminal investigations and illegal searches at checkpoints,” says ACLU-NH legal director Gilles Bissonnette.

The checkpoint was carried out with the support of the Woodstock Police Department.