Petitioners call on Sununu to end NH immigration status checkpoints

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On Thursday, August 9, NextGen New Hampshire, Granite State Organizing Project, and United Valley Interfaith Project delivered over 3,600 petition signatures to Governor Sununu, demanding that he call for an end to the “arbitrary and intrusive checkpoints” held by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) being held in New Hampshire.

Since early 2017, the CBP has held four roadblocks on I-93 to check the immigration status of every passerby, and there are up to 4 more checkpoints planned for this year.

“In the five weeks since the Families Belong Together rallies, more than 3,000 Granite Staters have stood up to say that these checkpoints are a violation of both our civil rights and our New Hampshire values, and that they’ll be voting on these issues in the fall,” the petition organizers wrote.

Sarah Jane Knoy, Executive Director of the Granite State Organizing Project said, “These unnecessary and ineffective checkpoints violate the spirit of our New Hampshire Motto ‘Live Free or Die’  They serve to terrorize our immigrant neighbors and black and brown people.  The checkpoints are a  deterrent to anyone who might think about heading up to the Whites for a hike.  I know I won’t be going there unless Governor Sununu demands an end to this intrusive abuse of police power.”

Asma Elhuni, Lead Organizer with United Valley Interfaith Project said, “ It is not OK that there are armed federal agents harassing drivers with these intrusive stops asking people if they are citizens of this country. These stops resemble police states that we criticize in countries that violate civil and human rights. We expect the leader of NH, Governor Sununu to listen to the people of New Hampshire and speak strongly against this violation of our civil rights.”

In May of this year, the ACLU affiliates in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont filed a lawsuit to require government agencies to turn over records about civil rights violations arising from immigration enforcement in their states. The lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It seeks records concerning interior enforcement operations including Border Patrol checkpoints and bus raids, ICE arrests at courthouses, and the targeted arrests of immigrants’ rights activists.

“ICE and Border Patrol operate with almost no oversight or transparency, mislead the public about the legal basis for their operations, and violate civil rights with impunity,” said Lia Ernst, ACLU of Vermont staff attorney. “New England residents have a right to know what federal agents are doing in their communities and to demand accountability for their actions.”

“Millions of immigrants are living in fear that they could be ripped from their families and their homes at any time, without any warning or fair chance to make their case,” said Emma Bond, staff attorney with the ACLU of Maine. “These cruel and abusive actions could have dire consequences for New England communities.”

On May 4, the New Hampshire Circuit Court ruled that a border patrol checkpoint in Woodstock was unconstitutional under both state and federal law. In that case, the Woodstock Police Department worked with CBP to circumvent a prohibition in the New Hampshire Constitution against warrantless dog searches. CPB and the WPD searched and seized hundreds, and possibly thousands, of individuals during the summer tourist season, without any reason to believe that these individuals committed a crime.

“This decision is a victory for civil liberties. As the Court ruled, these checkpoints flagrantly violated the New Hampshire Constitution and the Fourth Amendment,” said Gilles Bissonnette, ACLU of New Hampshire legal director. “Cases like this are exactly why more information is needed about what immigration agents are doing in our states. If we do not keep them in check, they will run roughshod over our laws. That is not how a free society works.”

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Matthew Murray is founder of the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message, and oversees the NH Labor News Facebook page. Follow @NHLabor_News on Twitter.