Border Patrol creates checkpoints

by Hannah Kuhar | 11/15/09 11:00pm

The U.S. Border Patrol has established checkpoints on the highways around the Upper Valley, the Office of Visa and Immigration Services informed international students in a Nov. 9 e-mail. In light of the checkpoints, the College has advised international students and faculty to carry proper documentation at all times.

Students told The Dartmouth that it has been two years since they have seen an increased Border Patrol presence.

Border Patrol sets up checkpoints to keep terrorists and illegal weapons out of the country, according to Officer Ross DeLacy, Border Patrol supervisor for the Swanton Sector, which includes all of Vermont and New Hampshire.

"In doing so we come across many things overstayed visas, contraband, people on the terrorist watch list, and more," DeLacy said in an interview with The Dartmouth. "Our traffic checkpoints are part of what we call our defense in-depth strategy' of an overall national strategy. We don't catch everyone at the border, so we set up occasional traffic checkpoints at main areas where there is major transportation thoroughfare."

OVIS director Robin Catmur said in an interview that Border Patrol agents often question individuals in the Upper Valley and set up traffic stops as part of their general responsibilities. Catmur said that she was alerted of the checkpoint by an employee on Nov. 7.

DeLacy said that the length of time a checkpoint is maintained varies. He refused to comment specifically on the details of planning and running the checkpoints.

"If we get a specific threat of something coming through our area, then we set up a tactical checkpoint," DeLacy said. "It's not like we have a specific schedule. Checkpoints are based on intelligence and what we catch, the people we come into contact with."

OVIS has sent e-mails throughout the week to remind international community members of the regulations and to suggest that they always carry proof of legal visitor status.

"Our mission really involves advising people on what the regulations are," Catmur said. "In this case, we remind them that the regulations require that they carry appropriate documentation with them at all times to prove their status as a legal international visitor in the U.S."

OVIS can communicate directly with local Border Patrol agents should officers question a student or faculty member's visa status, Catmur said.

"We can be in contact with Border Patrol at any time," Catmur said. "They have all of our contact information so that, if any question did arise, we could be contacted immediately to easily resolve any questions."

The Border Patrol team also maintains a working relationship with local police, alerting authorities of its presence, DeLacy said.

Hanover Chief of Police Nicholas Giaccone said in an interview with The Dartmouth that the traffic checkpoints have not had any effect on Hanover Police operations. Giaccone said that Hanover Police has occasionally come across people with invalid visa documentation.

"We contact Border Patrol so they can check through their databases whether someone is legally here or has overstayed their visa," Giaccone said.

Christabell Dorcas Makokha '11 said she was stopped at a checkpoint in White River Junction, Vt., in 2007 while on her way to a bowling alley with a group of Dartmouth students.

"They had been stopping more cars because we were closer to the Canadian border," Makokha said.

Although Makokha did not have all of her documentation with her, she said, the Border Patrol agent let the car pass through.

"I think it's just cumbersome when you want to travel and you always have to think about bringing your passport [and] your I-20," Makokha said.

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