·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Civil Rights

Federal Court Will Let ACLU Continue Lawsuit Against Immigration Checkpoints in New England

— April 11, 2021

According to the ACLU and its state-level affiliates, the border checkpoints serve no practical purpose, with motorists often stopped for non-immigration related reasons.

A federal court has agreed to let a lawsuit challenging the legality of immigration checkpoints in New England to move forward.

The lawsuit, notes Maine Public Radio, was filed in August by the American Civil Liberties Union and its local affiliates in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The complaint broadly challenges the constitutionality of a Border Patrol checkpoint in Woodstock, New Hampshire, along with several others.

The Woodstock checkpoint, notes MPH, is nearly 90 miles away from the Canadian border.

Emma Bond, ACLU-Maine’s legal director, told Maine Public Radio that her organization believes many New England immigration checkpoints are not legal.

“So allowing the case to proceed is critical to the overall goal of stopping [Customs and Border Protection’s] unconstitutional practices, and their checkpoints in New England,” Bond said.

Bond says that the ACLU is aware of several other checkpoints in the region—and believes that CBP officers often stop motorists for frivolous reasons and without probable cause.

“This is a violation of constitutional rights. It’s a violation of privacy,” she said. “And, on a more general level, these checkpoints offend the basic notions of what it means to live in a free society.”

Gilles Bissonnette, the ACLU-New Hampshire’s legal director, made similar claims, saying the court’s approval means civil liberties advocates can continue their challenge against Customs and Border Protection.

A Border Patrol officer with a K-9 unit near Yuma, AZ. U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Jerry Glaser. Public domain.

“Allowing this case to move forward is critical to stopping CBP’s unconstitutional practice of using immigration checkpoints to unlawfully search and seize people in New Hampshire and across New England,” Bissonnette said.

As reported earlier this year, Bissonnette previously said that Customs and Border Protection is using its checkpoints for general crime-prevention purposes.

“Border Patrol is charged with protecting the border,” Bissonnette said shortly after the suit was first filed. “It is unconstitutional for Border Patrol to use interior checkpoints, nearly 100 miles from the border, as a ruse to unlawfully search and seize people for the purpose of general crime control. Yet that is exactly what Border Patrol is doing with checkpoints in northern New England.”

However, past legal challenges against Border Patrol checkpoints have tended to fall flat, with courts upholding their constitutionality–so long as such checkpoints are effective in detaining individuals who have entered the United States unlawfully, and so long as they do not unduly burden those who have a legal right to travel within the country.

The CBP, says Maine Public Radio, responded to the station’s request for comment by stating that “it does not comment on pending litigation.”


ACLU lawsuit over NH immigration checkpoints far from border to proceed

Lawsuit challenges immigration checkpoints on I-93

Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality Of Border Patrol Checkpoints Allowed To Proceed

Join the conversation!