Sen. Patrick Leahy has written the U.S. Department of Homeland Security asking for clarification of plans by the Border Patrol to build permanent internal checkpoints along major north-south Interstate highways in New England, including I-91 and I-89 in Vermont, according to the Valley News. The checkpoints would be miles from any international boundary -- but within the 100-mile zone the Border Patrol claims as its jurisdiction to stop motorists for no specific reason.
The Border Patrol issued a statement Monday evening, the Valley News reported, saying it “presently has no plans to erect permanent checkpoints in Vermont.”
Leahy’s concern – expressed before, largely in regard to the intermittent “temporary” checkpoints that sometimes operate on I-91 south of White River Junction – was prompted by release last month of the ACLU-VT’s Surveillance on the Northern Border report.
The report looked at a number of surveillance tools and systems put in place in Vermont in the last dozen years, including the “temporary” checkpoints at White River. Through public records requests, the ACLU-VT obtained copies of a feasibility study pinpointing sites where permanent checkpoints could be built.
In its statement, the Border Patrol said, “The documents referenced in the ACLU report were from several years ago, we exercised due diligence and explored the feasibility of establishing permanent checkpoints.”
Leahy has bird-dogged the internal checkpoints issue for a number of years, complaining that they are ineffective in catching terrorists and that they impinge on people’s right to move about freely. He has included in the comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate and now under consideration in the House a provision that Border Patrol stops could not take place further than 25 miles from an international border – essentially shutting down the idea of permanent checkpoints built deep within the state.
“Any plans for a permanent Border Patrol checkpoint nearly 100 miles from Vermont’s border with Canada are inconsistent with the policy the Senate approved,” Leahy wrote in his letter to the acting Department of Homeland Security director, Rand Beers.
Read the Valley News story about Leahy's concern over internal checkpoints.
Read Leahy’s letter to Rand Beers, acting Department of Homeland Security director.
Read a blog post about the Border Patrol’s plans to build internal checkpoints, with links to specific documents obtained through the ACLU-VT’s public records requests.
Read the ACLU-VT report, Surveillance on the Northern Border.
Watch the ACLU-VT video Surveillance on the Northern Border.