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Forum, Sept. 11: I-89 checkpoint a traumatic imposition of federal power


Tuesday, September 10, 2019
I-89 checkpoint a traumatic imposition of federal power

Last week’s arrests of 24 Upper Valley community members have left me feeling powerless (“Border Patrol: Feds arrest 24 undocumented people in Lebanon-area immigration sweep,” Sept. 7).

According to federal law, Customs and Border Protection can stop cars and board buses to search for people without immigration documentation within 100 miles of the border. In practice, this means all the towns in the Upper Valley are subject to this federal intervention. People stopped in Thursday’s checkpoint on Interstate 89 suggested that Customs and Border Protection officers illegally profiled black and brown people for questioning, while waving white motorists through. I was relieved to read Lebanon police do not assist in immigration investigations, and are trained not to ask about immigration status. This non-cooperation, however, is not the same as the adoption of a citywide resolution that stops the exchange of information between local and federal immigration officials.

Based on my personal experiences and the research I do as a sociology professor at Dartmouth College, I know that people of color who try to make a home in the historically white Upper Valley suffer daily indignities of being overlooked, ignored, asked to prove themselves and generally treated as a bit less human than white people. Is there anything that we — people who appreciate the growing racial diversity in our towns — can do?

I have seen some of my neighbors put out yard signs that say in three different languages, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” This symbolic support is amazing, but loud proclamation of one’s values isn’t for everyone. Others might consider small acts of courage, like going out of the way to say more than hello to our neighbors, co-workers and fellow congregants of color. Ask them about their weekends, invite them to our book clubs, and demonstrate through our warmth that we value their contributions as members of our communities.

These small acts may empower us to withstand these traumatic federal impositions of power and help us view people of color in our communities as “us” not “them.”

EMILY WALTON

Lebanon

‘Have a great day’? Really?

I am so angry I have to vent publicly, having already done so to my best friend.

I was coming home from West Lebanon last Thursday afternoon on Advance Transit when our bus was stopped and boarded by two immigration officers. They moved through the bus questioning passengers as to where they came from. All went smoothly until they reached a small, elderly woman from Colombia who was sitting across the aisle from me. One officer questioned her in great detail and asked for her documents. She was visibly shaking by now. Obviously the documents were not to the officer’s liking, so he called in a “superior,” who put her through the same questions.

After 20 minutes they left her and turned to me. Boiling mad at this point I said, “I am an immigrant.” “From where?” “Ireland.” “Are you a U.S. citizen?” “Yes, but I don’t have my document.” “That’s OK, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am.”

Why did they believe me? Because I am white? Because I speak English (with a foreign accent)?

On leaving the bus the officers had the gall to say, “Thank you, folks. Have a great day.” Is that little Colombian woman having a great day? Or the people who were half an hour late for appointments or work, or the people standing on the street for the bus that was 30 minutes late?

And I, for sure, am not having a great day. I am just too angry.

PAULINE McNULTY

Lebanon

Advance Transit buses should re-route to avoid checkpoint

During the Sept. 5 Customs and Border Protection checkpoint on Interstate 89, activists acting as observers noticed an Advance Transit bus had been pulled over and boarded by CPB agents. I was told that one of the observers called Advance Transit to alert them and recommended that the checkpoint be avoided. As we monitored the situation for more than seven hours, AT buses continued to go through the checkpoint.

Allow me to remind readers that in this climate of overt racism, Customs and Border Protection agents were profiling black and brown people. My friend, going to work at Dartmouth-Hitchcock from Vermont, asked the agent why they weren’t detaining her. The reply was because she was white.

I am not sure why Advance Transit didn’t re-route the buses, but by going through the checkpoint riders were put in danger of being detained and worse — deported. Riders trust that when they get on the bus, they will get to their destination without being terrorized. Sadly, many people cannot appreciate this feeling because they are, as I am, safe in our white skin. But this can be avoided in the future.

I have urged the Advance Transit board to have a “Plan B” when a checkpoint is in progress. It is unfortunate that one bus may end up going through the checkpoint, but once the driver reports that checkpoint to dispatch, the right thing to do is to take an alternate route and not expose riders to threats and intimidation. This particular checkpoint was especially drawn out. Many buses were caught up in this horrible dragnet.

This is not how immigration policy should work. I hope your readers understand the rational behind this sham and do everything to thwart it. It is designed to take our eyes off all of the real problems we are facing.

Undocumented immigration is not what ails us. What Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are doing is just cruel and they are following orders from a fascist regime.

SHARON RACUSIN

Norwich

These are the actions of a totalitarian government

We are writing to protest the recent Customs and Border Protection activities in Lebanon.

As Jewish Americans whose ancestors fled persecution to immigrate to this country, the idea that any law enforcement official should stop community members and visitors peacefully driving down Interstate 89 to demand they prove their immigration status makes our blood run cold.

The behavior of the Customs and Border Protection officers suggests that this was not only about immigration status, but more broadly about harassing people of color. Witnesses attest to many instances in which drivers who were black or brown were asked to prove citizenship, while drivers who were white were waved through the checkpoint. This blatant racial profiling is unconstitutional and illegal.

These are the actions of a totalitarian government with no concern for human rights or dignity.

In addition to detaining and potentially deporting our community members, the checkpoint on I-89 kept ill patients from their medical appointments and parents from picking up their children. This happened at a time when many international students were arriving at Dartmouth College, demonstrating the utter disregard that Customs and Border Protection has for our diverse and interdependent Upper Valley community.

As we write, the White House is planning to transfer money from essential programs to fund its immigration detention system. Given the horrific conditions uncovered in U.S. immigration facilities, we demand that our tax dollars no longer be used to support immigration enforcement in this country. These precious resources should be used to meet the very real needs of our communities for housing, food, medical care and safe schools, not to enforce racist and immoral immigration policies.

Please join us in contacting our elected officials in New Hampshire and Vermont to insist that they cut funding for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement until human rights abuses stop and humane immigration policy is enacted in the United States.

DAISY GOODMAN

Hanover

LIZ BLUM

Norwich

NELSON KAFIR

Norwich

NORA PALEY

Thetford

KATHY SHAPIRO

Middlesex, Vt.