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ACLU, Border Patrol settle lawsuit over checkpoints on Interstate 93

photo of checkpoint
Courtesy of CBP.gov

The American Civil Liberties Union chapters in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont have settled a lawsuit with U.S. Customs and Border Protection over the use of checkpoints that are staged far from the international border.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2020, stemmed from a series of checkpoints along Interstate 93 in the town of Woodstock, approximately 90 miles from the Canadian border.

The ACLU groups alleged that the primary purpose of the checkpoints was “general crime control and interdiction” rather than the enforcement of immigration law.

Under federal regulations, Border Patrol agents are permitted to stage checkpoints within 100 miles of the international border, including the nautical border. That 100-mile zone includes the entire state of New Hampshire, as well as Maine, Vermont and several other states.

Courts have upheld the constitutionality of inland checkpoints as long as they can be proven effective at detaining people who have crossed the border illegally, and don’t unduly burden U.S. citizens.

In 2017, more than a dozen citizens were charged with low-level possession charges following a checkpoint involving drug-sniffing dogs. Those cases were eventually thrown out on constitutional grounds.

After years of legal back and forth, a trial in the federal case challenging the constitutionality of the checkpoints was set for 2024. Under the terms of a settlement announced Friday by the ACLU, Border Patrol agrees to not use the Woodstock checkpoint until at least 2025.

“The ACLU will be ready to intervene if or when Border Patrol resumes these unconstitutional activities in our communities,” said Gilles Bissonnette, the ACLU of New Hampshire’s legal director.

The government didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.