Vermont Senator tries to limit Border Zone Vehicle Stops
The bipartisan immigration compromise reached in the U.S. Senate last Friday includes a key provision championed by Vermont’s Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy to help protect the privacy and property rights of millions of people who live near the Northern Border. It makes significant progress in addressing the broad border zones where officials may stop vehicles and enter private land without warrants.
Mr. Leahy is managing the Senate debate on the bill, which now is in its third week. He had, earlier, seen to bar the imposition of fees for automobile crossings across the Northern Border into the United States, and to make clear that the bill does not authorize fencing on the Northern Border.
Leahy’s work to limit the expanse of border zone vehicle stops relates to his longstanding concerns about checkpoints used in Vermont on I-91, far from the Northern Border. Under current law, federal agents
have broad legal authority to stop vehicles and search private land without a warrant for the purpose of patrolling the border. This broad authority often means that large swaths of land in small states like Vermont and densely populated cities within 100 miles of a border are subject to vehicle checkpoints, and to agents having access to private land within 25 miles of the border.
The current policy has enabled U.S. border authorities to set up temporary checkpoints on I-91 near White River Junction – a practice that Leahy has questioned in many hearings with Department of Homeland Security officials over the years.
The new amendment authored by Leahy and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) would limit to 25 miles the distance from the border within which Customs and Border Protection (CPB) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents may conduct vehicle stops, and to 10 miles the distance from the border for searches of private land without a warrant, while giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) flexibility to extend these zones when needed.
The Senator said, “The wide latitude in current law for setting up checkpoints far from our borders has led to maximum hassles of law-abiding local residents, with minimal value to border enforcement. In Vermont it would be easy for anyone who crossed the border 100 miles back to avoid these checkpoints simply by using any of the many other roads that bypass the checkpoints. This is an intrusive practice for local residents, subjecting Vermonters to needless and pointless delays and question- ing. It simply is not a productive use of border enforcement dollars. The wide leeway for accessing private property without permission or warrants is also excessive, and it should be limited.”
Also included in the compromise package of amendments are improvements Leahy worked to include to the Summer Work Travel program, which allows students from around the world to come to the United States for several months to work and experience American culture. Vermont businesses host many of these international students, and changes Leahy supported will ensure that the program continues to run effectively and provide quality experiences for the students involved. While the program is available to Canadian students, they do not represent a sizeable part of those admitted.