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NH State Police work on immigration policy

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 12. 2017 12:32AM

New Hampshire State Police officials are drafting a policy that governs how troopers should address the immigration status of people they come across during traffic stops and other instances.

Col. Christopher Wagner said he has reviewed the policy of the Manchester Police Department and is working with Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to write a policy for state police. Manchester prohibits its officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status.

Wagner said his effort follows meetings this summer with immigrant advocacy groups, clergy and civil libertarians.

“We are not in the immigration business. That is not part of our role,” Wagner said last week. “We want to make sure our troopers are following and enforcing state laws only.”

Immigration status is often a civil matter, he noted.

For years, advocates have complained that troopers inquire about immigration status during traffic stops.

Eva Castillo, a former Manchester police commissioner and founder of New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, said she has been meeting with state police brass since Gov. John Lynch’s administration to complain about what she believes is racial profiling.

“Sometimes, they stop them for no reason other than they are brown(-skinned),” Castillo said Monday.

Wagner, who took over as colonel 11 months ago, gives Castillo hope, she said.

“The colonel seemed generally interested in finding out more and fixing the issue,” Castillo said.

Wagner said he can’t vouch for every stop that troopers made in the past. But he said he does not want a perception out there that state police ask people about their immigration status.

He expects to have a draft policy in hand shortly. At present, Wagner said, state police have no policy when it comes to immigration-related matters.

Associate Attorney General Jane Young said her office is reviewing federal and state laws as well as policies of state police in neighboring states.

“We’re looking at this comprehensively. We are trying to be as thoughtful as we can to make this a sound policy,” Young said Monday evening. She thinks a review could take several months.

U.S. immigration officials say they have no recommendation about how local and state police should address immigration status, said spokesman Shawn Neudauer.

“State and local police officers have enough on their plate. They don’t need to enforce immigration laws,” Neudauer said.

He said nothing should stop a local police officer from reaching out to fellow law enforcement agencies, including ICE, to share information.

When President Trump issued an executive order in February on immigration, it included an expansion of the 287(g) program, which allows qualified police officers to perform the duties of ICE.

But according to ICE, only 60 agencies in 18 states have signed up for the program; none are in New Hampshire. All involve jail administration.

Neudauer said the jail administration component of 287(g) allows local jail officials to help ICE process inmates once they had been identified as illegal immigrants.

When local or state police arrest an illegal immigrant for a crime, ICE usually finds out once they are jailed, he said.


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