Ver­mont Se­na­tor tries to limit Bor­der Zone Ve­hi­cle Stops

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS -

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.

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