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Leahy Proposes Bill to Curb Traffic Stops at Border

  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., talks with a reporter as he departs after a vote on Gina Haspel to be CIA director, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, May 17, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/28/2018 3:23:22 PM
Modified: 6/29/2018 12:36:14 AM

White River Junction — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on Thursday filed legislation to curb interior traffic stops made by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents without a warrant.

The bill from Leahy and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would reduce the “border zone” where Homeland Security officers can board and search vehicles without a warrant for undocumented immigrants to 25 miles from 100 miles. Their bill also would prohibit Homeland Security from stopping a vehicle at “dragnet-style” immigration checkpoints more than 10 miles from the border without reasonable suspicion that someone in the vehicle is in the country illegally.

And it would reduce to 10 miles — down from 25 miles from the border — the zone where Homeland Security officers are allowed, with the exception of houses, to enter private property without warrants as they patrol the border.

Border Patrol stops along Interstate 91 in White River Junction over the years have been criticized by Upper Valley residents concerned about civil liberties.

Under current practice, confirmed in a court decision, Homeland Security officers can make such stops within 100 miles of the border.

Last summer, two Border Patrol agents boarded a Greyhound bus at the White River Junction station and asked passengers about their citizenship status.

Federal officials also have been making stops along Interstate 93 in Woodstock, N.H.

“The need for this legislation has never been clearer,” Leahy said in a statement. “The Trump administration’s aggressive yet wasteful use of immigration enforcement resources has subjected law-abiding citizens to needless and intrusive searches at Customs and Border Protection checkpoints far from the border.”

Leahy said his bill for Fourth Amendment protections should not be a partisan issue, and at least one prominent Vermont Republican agreed with him.

State GOP Vice Chairman Brady Toensing, an attorney who lives in Charlotte, Vt., said his wife recently was stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 87 in upstate New York.

“These curbs sound good to me,” Toensing said via email. “There is no good reason to be doing dragnet checkpoints so far from the border and certainly not one that justifies infringing on our civil liberties.”

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.

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