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Very Real

Border Patrol Is Stopping New England Drivers, Ramping Up Immigration Checkpoints Near Canada

U.S. border checkpoints have sprung up in more locations under the current administration, according to federal officials.

By Samira Sadeque

U.S. Customs and Border Protection are ramping up activity near the northern border of the country, resulting in the arrests of at least five undocumented immigrants last week.

Border Patrol agents made arrests after setting up checkpoints along Interstate 95 primarily around New Hampshire and Maine. A CNN report claimed it led to arrests of five undocumented immigrants, while a New York Times report put the number at six.  

In a “checkpoint operation” that lasted 11 hours on June 20, authorities made nine drug-related arrests and two arrests for “immigration violations,” CNN reports.

Motorists on the highway have been asked about their nationality.

“If you want to continue down the road, then yes ma’am. We need to know what citizen — what country you’re a citizen of,” said an agent to two Bangor Daily News reporters.

When the reporters asked what would happen if a driver refused to answer, they were reportedly told that the driver would only be allowed to continue down the route if, the agent was “pretty sure” they’re a U.S. citizen.

Border checkpoints have generally been common for investigating drug smuggling in the southwest border, but many more have sprung up under the current administration, according to The New York Times.

In May, a bus company in Bangor, Maine, told their passengers that they had to be U.S. citizens after a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer asked the boarding passengers their citizenship status, CNN reported. The company later told CNN that the employee “misspoke.”

According to another New York Times report, the searches on Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains on domestic routes have become more frequent since the Obama administration.

In May, the Maine American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection after the agencies failed to turn over requested information related to federal agencies’ checkpoints operations including records addressing the legality of stops and searches, and records of Maine State or law enforcement’s involvement with CBP.

“The U.S. Border Patrol conducts transportation checks in accordance with the law,” Stephanie Malin, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, told the Times. “Transportation checks are performed when and where there is an operational benefit.”

According to federal regulations, border agents can conduct immigration checks anywhere within a reasonable distance, defined to be “within 100 air miles from any external boundary of the United States.”

[Photo: U.S. Border Patrol agent searches an undocumented immigrant. By John Moore/Getty Images]