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Vermont checkpoint was used miles from Canadian border

May 5, 2019

SOUTH HERO, Vt. (AP) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents put in place the first checkpoint miles from the Canadian border in a decade in Vermont, prompting an outcry from the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont.

Swanton Sector Border Patrol Agents conducted an immigration checkpoint Saturday on the Sandbar Causeway, which connects South Hero to Milton, more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the international border. Agents used dogs in searches, but no arrests or seizures were made, officials said.

Under federal law, the Border Patrol is permitted to set up checkpoints within 100 miles (161 kilometers) of international borders.

But Lia Ernst, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, says such checkpoints violate people’s rights.

“Vermonters want to travel freely without being stopped, delayed or questioned by law enforcement who have absolutely no suspicion whatsoever of any wrongdoing,” Ernst told Vermont Public Radio. “This is completely contrary to American values.”

Vermont Public Radio said it was the first time since 2009 that a checkpoint had been established inland from the international border in Vermont.

The Patrol said its agents carefully select checkpoint locations along routes of egress from the immediate border area to maximize border enforcement while minimizing effects on the traveling public.

The agency said such operations “are a vital tool” for security efforts.

“Enforcement actions away from the border are within the jurisdiction of U.S. Border Patrol and performed as a means of preventing smuggling organizations from exploiting unmonitored roads and highways to travel to the interior of the United States,” the agency said in a statement.