8 undocumented immigrants arrested at N.H. checkpoint, officials say

  • A U.S. Border Patrol agent checks a car on the I-93 southbound lane on Wednesday, September 28, 2017 south of the Route 175 exit south of Lincoln. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Tuesday, October 03, 2017

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents reported arresting eight undocumented immigrants from four countries at an Interstate 93 checkpoint in Woodstock last week, the second such operation since August.

Of those detained, two had overstayed their visas, according to an agency news release Monday. Detainees hailed from Bulgaria, Guatemala, Ecuador and El Salvador, the agency said.

CBP manned the checkpoint from Sept. 26 to 28 last week, stopping southbound traffic at a stretch just north of Exit 30 – 72 miles from the Canadian border. About a dozen agents, some with drug-sniffing dogs, patrolled the area as motorists and passengers were asked about their citizenship.

Along with the undocumented immigrants, border patrol agents reported seizing 71 grams of marijuana, 297 grams of marijuana edibles and 5 ounces of hash oil. The release did not specify whether the drugs were taken from U.S. citizens or undocumented immigrants. The drugs were later handed over to New Hampshire State Police “for further investigation and prosecution,” the release said.

Under a federal regulation, Border Patrol has the authority to set up checkpoints within 100 miles of the U.S. border, though civil rights groups have questioned the rule’s constitutionality.

The agency has operated in New Hampshire along the same stretch of highway for decades, but stopped between 2012 and 2017 due to budget constraints, according to Chief Ryan Oleson of the Woodstock Police Department. The resumption of the checkpoints in August, taking place over the objection of activists, comes as the agency has received more resources and manpower under President Donald Trump, according to Stephanie Malin, an agency spokeswoman.

There are signs that the checkpoint’s effectiveness may have diminished. At its first checkpoint this year in late August, the agency made far more detentions – 25 over three days – and seized about a pound of marijuana and other drugs.

Malin declined to comment on whether and when the agency will stage its next checkpoint, citing protocol.

But Chief Patrol Agent John Pfeifer, of the Swanton Sector station in Vermont – which oversees the New Hampshire checkpoint – called it a valuable tool.

“Swanton Sector utilizes inspection checkpoints as part of our defense-in-depth strategy” he said in a statement. “U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints are part of an intricate, multi-faceted strategic plan focusing on information, integration and rapid response capabilities, which aid in border security.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at