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U.S. Border Patrol arrests 25 illegals at I-93 roadblock, seizes pounds of pot

By MARK HAYWARD
Union Leader Staff

August 28. 2017 2:03PM
Basra Mohamed documented the U.S. Border Patrol roadblock on I-93 in Woodstock. Such government actions are illegal except within 100 miles of a U.S. Border. (Facebook)



Federal border patrol agents arrested 25 illegal aliens during a three-day checkpoint this past weekend on Interstate 93 south in Thornton, the first such checkpoint in the Granite State in five years, the agency said.

Another 46 people, nearly all from New England, were arrested at the checkpoint. Nearly all face drug charges after border patrol drug-sniffing dogs zeroed in on their vehicles, said Woodstock Police Chief Ryan Oleson, whose department assisted.

The cumulative amount of marijuana seized totaled two pounds. Police seized smaller amounts of cocaine, psilocybin mushrooms and hash oil.

The checkpoint drew internet attention when a driver posted photos and a short video clip to Facebook. “Let me repeat that, right now, in NH, far away from the border, USBP has a passport checkpoint set inside NH, over an hour and a half away from the US-Canadian border,” wrote Basra Mohamed on Sunday. She used hashtags “#showmeyourpapers” and “#trumpsamerica.”

The post was shared more than 450 times by Monday night.

Checkpoints on I-93 became common in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But none had taken place in New Hampshire since July 2012, according to federal officials. The border patrol cited numerous factors on the dearth of checkpoints, including funding, intelligence reports and manpower. In its announcement about the checkpoint, the Border Patrol said it is hiring.

“Checkpoints are just one of the tools we utilize to enforce the immigration and other federal laws of our nation,” said John C. Pfeifer, chief patrol agent for the Swanton (Vt.) sector, which is responsible for securing the border in New Hampshire, Vermont and northeastern New York.

“In addition to technology, manpower and intelligence, checkpoints help to deny access to major routes of egress away from the border and into our communities in the interior of the U.S.,” he said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrested 25 people who did not have a valid immigration status. Fourteen were from Columbia and had overstayed their visas. Other illegal immigrants were from Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico, according to customs officials.

Border patrol would not identify the 25, citing its privacy policy.

100-mile zone

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a 100-mile border zone exists along the country’s borders and shores. The Supreme Court has upheld the use of immigration checkpoints, but only for a brief and limited inquiry into residence status, the ACLU said. Checkpoints cannot be primarily used for drug-search or general law enforcement efforts, the civil rights group said.

A Manchester immigration lawyer said the 25 could have been visiting the White Mountains or working at various seasonal employers in the area. Until recently, the agencies had focused on finding and detaining immigrants with criminal histories, but that no longer seems to be the case, said Ron Abramson.

“These are opportunities for law enforcement to pick low-hanging fruit,” Abramson said. Oleson said the checkpoint took place just north of Exit 30 in Thornton, before a long straightaway that allows police to slow traffic. He said border patrol has historically used that location.

Oleson said Woodstock police handled arrests for state law violations, nearly all of which involved drug possession or drug transportation.

He said federal agents used three dogs and walked them alongside cars as they waited in the checkpoint. If the dog signaled the possible presence of drugs, the driver was asked to park. Occupants of the car exited the car, and a dog went through the interior.

“Those dogs were highly trained and impressive to watch,” Oleson said. Border patrol agents would locate the drugs, field-test them, weigh them, and then turn them over to Woodstock police.

Oleson said border patrol agents have “a lot more leeway,” and he could not use a dog to search a car unless he has a suspicion of drug possession that he can articulate. He said no arrests were made for driving under the influence of drugs.

Concord resident Jason Labrie, 18, was charged with several felonies, alleging that he ran the checkpoint and hit 99 mph before being stopped by police. He was charged with cocaine possession, disobeying a police officer, reckless operation, reckless conduct, falsifying physical evidence and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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