Border patrol agents apprehend 18 people in Lebanon area

  • Protesters walk down Maple Street to Hartford Avenue in White River Junction, Vt., on Aug. 14, 2019. About 200 were protesting recent immigration arrests and delays by the Hartford Selectboard to enact policy changes. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/14/2019 12:17:24 PM
Modified: 8/14/2019 10:50:57 PM

HARTFORD — The president’s promised immigration raids appear to have arrived in the Upper Valley.

Eighteen people without immigration documentation allowing them to enter or remain in the United States were apprehended when Border Patrol agents “conducted patrols” in the Lebanon area between July 29 and Aug. 1, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman.

Seventeen of the people detained were arrested and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for removal proceedings, and one is being held by the U.S. Marshals Service pending prosecution for re-entering the United States after already being removed, according to a statement provided on Wednesday by Customs and Border Protection spokesman Steven Cribby.

The statement didn’t specifically indicate where the apprehensions took place. Cribby declined further comment beyond his initial statement.

The sweep, along with a similar one from Aug. 7 to Aug. 9 in the area of Littleton, N.H., that resulted in nine similar arrests, were conducted by Border Patrol agents from the Beecher Falls (Vt.) Station, which borders the Canadian border.

In that instance, eight of the people arrested for not having immigration documentation that allows them to enter or stay in the United States also were turned over to ICE, with one individual pending prosecution for re-entry after removal, Cribby said in the statement.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened, and sometimes delayed, immigration raids throughout the country as part of his broader strategy to limit immigration, both by undocumented families at the southern border and, more recently, by people attempting to enter the country legally.

Questions about ICE raids in the Hartford community surfaced Tuesday morning after Rise! Upper Valley, an immigrant rights activist group, disseminated a flyer asserting that nine people were detained in Hartford on July 31.

That group is planning a rally this afternoon to “support our migrant siblings and to decry those in our community who are aiding and abetting detention and deportation,” according to the flyer.

A representative of Rise! Upper Valley, Kalé Camara, declined to speak to the Valley News.

In emails and an interview late Tuesday night, Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten said he wasn’t aware of the recent sweeps at the time that they happened.

“The Hartford Police Department has not responded to, been at the scene of, or participated in any investigations, arrests, raids or enforcement action of any kind with customs or immigration officials on July 31st, prior to the 31st, or since that time,” he said in an email.

The only day that Kasten was aware that “customs investigators” — which he described as federal investigators working on criminal investigations, not immigration officials — were in town was on July 31, he said. Those investigators had come to the Hartford Police Department to use a scale and a test kit for cocaine that was seized, according to Kasten. He said his understanding is that the seizure is part of a U.S. Marshals case.

“We were not asked to do anything in relation to immigration enforcement,” Kasten said. “We would not have participated.”

Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello said he is “aware that U.S. Border Patrol has been active in our area from time to time, but I have no details on any detentions or arrests that they may have made.”

“They have not requested to utilize our facility for any arrests/bookings and we have not been requested to assist them in any of the arrests you’ve cited,” Mello said in an email.

The recent arrests come as the Hartford Selectboard for more than two months has been considering enacting a policy or ordinance that would establish clearer guidelines for Hartford police’s communication with federal authorities about a person’s citizenship or immigration status. The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont and Migrant Justice, a Burlington-based organization pushing for economic justice and human rights, proposed the policy amendments to the town’s existing Fair and Impartial Policing policy in early June.

The Selectboard, following a heated meeting on July 30, pushed pause on enacting a policy or ordinance change.

Kasten has expressed resistance to any changes to the town’s policing policies, saying in part that barring communication with federal authorities is against federal law and could hinder criminal investigations. He also has said his department doesn’t interact with federal law enforcement on any immigration matters and didn’t for any of the recent arrests.

Kasten’s department on Tuesday inquired with officials at the Beecher Falls Station about what may have gone on in the Upper Valley, and a spokesman told them that “numerous arrests” were made. His department wasn’t told on what basis the arrests were made, other than that “a number of agencies (were) involved for a number of different offenses,” he said.

He maintains that his department’s involvement with the cocaine seizure was “very narrow.”

The rally is slated to start at Hartford Town Hall at 4:30 p.m.

Town Hall will close at 3 p.m., given “possible crowd size of this afternoon’s rally,” Paula Nulty, the town manager’s assistant, said Wednesday morning.

Kasten said he remains committed to “equality for everyone, within the law.”

“Our community is a strong community, that has very strong values around what is right and what is wrong,” he said.

Posted online Wednesday at 12:20 p.m. This story will be updated.

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