NH bill would require advance notice of immigration checkpoints

By RICK GREEEN

Keene Sentinel

Published: 04-13-2023 9:24 AM

The public could get some early warning of immigration checkpoints under a bill that has passed the New Hampshire House and is pending in the Senate.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers sometimes stop vehicles at checkpoints along major highways within 100 miles of the Canadian border. New Hampshire state troopers are on hand to provide traffic control, routing cars in and out of the checkpoints.

House Bill 624, which passed the House, 220-152, on March 9, would require state or local police to let the public know of plans to hold such a checkpoint. A similar bill passed the House by a wide margin last year before the Senate killed it.

Backers of HB 624 say the checkpoints can inconvenience and intimidate the public and may circumvent the N.H. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Opponents say the state should help and not hinder federal immigration and drug-control efforts.

Frank Knaack, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, spoke in favor of the measure Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He noted that public notice is given before checkpoints in which motorists are checked for intoxication. The state’s law-enforcement manual says this notice is for the convenience of motorists and is intended to avoid drivers becoming surprised or apprehensive.

“We think that the same theory should be applied here for quote-unquote immigration checkpoints,” Knaack said.

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He said these checkpoints get around protections in the N.H. Constitution against unreasonable search and seizure, adding that drug-sniffing dogs are used without authorities having a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred.

Nobody spoke against the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

In a public hearing on the bill in February before the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, State Police Major Mark Hall expressed concerns that if the bill passes, there could be unintended consequences.

If federal officials didn’t want the public to know of these checkpoints, they could just not advise State Police ahead of time, and this would prevent troopers from fulfilling their role of ensuring traffic safety, Hall said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jonathan Stone, R-Claremont, said in a written statement that advance notice of the checkpoints would defeat their purpose.

“This notice would give advance warning to those wishing to enter our state and country illegally and possibly impede the enforcement actions of the Border Patrol agents,” he said.

HB 624 is co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Schapiro, D-Keene. In February, it cleared the House panel, 14-6, with Reps. Jonah Wheeler, D-Peterborough, and Jennifer Rhodes, R-Winchester, among those in support.

Wheeler said the checkpoints seem to run afoul of unfair search and seizure protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“The checkpoints are not just impeding on your day, it’s impeding on your Fourth Amendment,” he said. “There’s a 100-mile zone where the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply if the federal government is running one of these checkpoints.”

Schapiro said in an email on Tuesday that stopping motorists without reasonable grounds intrudes on privacy, causes delays and results in a “hard-to-resist invitation” for racial profiling.

“Previous state and federal immigration checkpoints have led to unwarranted searches related to other minor crimes such as possession of drugs,” he said.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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