New Hampshire state House passes bill requiring law enforcement to notify public of immigration checkpoints

The bill will face its first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Feb. 10.

by Lauren Adler | 1/28/22 5:05am

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by Angelina Scarlotta / The Dartmouth

Earlier this month, the New Hampshire state House of Representatives passed H.B. 579, requiring notice to the public before immigration checkpoints are conducted, by a bipartisan vote of 254-85. The bill has been introduced in the Senate and referred to the Judiciary Committee, though it has not yet been assigned a floor date.

Originally sponsored by Rep. Kevin Craig of Coos, New Hampshire, a Republican, the bill will require local law enforcement agencies, which are informed of scheduled checkpoints by federal agencies, to alert the public within 24 hours of a scheduled checkpoint. If passed by the Senate and approved by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, the bill would immediately take effect to amend RSA 265, “Obedience to and Effect of Traffic Laws.” The amendment would appear directly after sections concerning sobriety checkpoints and motorcycle-only checkpoints.

Craig, a retired officer from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said that he proposed the bill because New Hampshire has an “inconsistent approach” to road checkpoints, which are a court-granted exception to the Fourth Amendment: while law enforcement agencies are required to notify the public of sobriety checkpoints, they are not currently required to publicize immigration checkpoints. H.B. 579 would require local law enforcement to make public upcoming immigration checkpoints by disclosing the time and location using “various media resources available.” 

According to Craig, lack of public knowledge of immigration checkpoints has led to “miles-long” backups along major highways, which can delay emergency service vehicles, cause employees trouble at work due to tardiness and create inconvenience and distress for local residents or visitors who are people of color.

“People should be able to avoid these checkpoints if they want to, and in order to do that, they have to know about them,” Craig said. “There’s a safety hazard, it takes valuable resources away and decreases [Customs and Border Patrol’s] effectiveness, and of course there are a lot of disparity concerns.”

Craig said that Democratic Rep. Latha Mangipudi of Hillsborough, New Hampshire, the first Indian American to be elected to the state legislature, testified that she and her family members were stuck at an immigration checkpoint while visiting from overseas despite having valid visas, which caused both inconvenience and fear. 

“That’s simply not right,” Craig said. “That’s not good policy.”

Craig added that he believes the bill has garnered wide bipartisan support because there is “something for everybody” in the bill in terms of political objectives — along with the fact that the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire helped work on the bill before its passage.

New Hampshire ACLU legal director Gilles Bissonette said that the checkpoints “present a real civil liberties issue” because they are conducted “without any reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime has been committed,” so the ACLU hoped to help “mitigate that civil liberties intrusion as much as possible.”

“We’re very grateful to the sponsor for [Craig’s] work in pushing this,” Bissonette said. “It’s an important piece of legislation, and we just wanted to provide as much assistance to Rep. Craig as possible.”

According to Bissonette, the ACLU will continue to support the bill “at every step of the process,” including at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Feb. 10. After the hearing, members of the committee will make a recommendation on the bill at an executive session, and the rest of the Senate will vote on the bill. If it passes, it must be signed by Gov. Sununu to become law.

Dafne Valenciano ’25, an ambassador for the Coalition for Immigration Reform and Equality at Dartmouth, said that she hopes the bill will become law so that undocumented students and immigrants who are local residents “feel more comfortable and cared for.”

“[These people] are humans and shouldn’t have to go through an emotional amount of pain with the constant fear they face already,” Valenciano said. “If somebody is undocumented or an immigrant, if they’re aware of what’s happening, they can protect themselves and take the measures they need to in order to not be scared of deportation or be discriminated against.”

Valenciano noted that unlike her home state of California, New Hampshire does not allow residents to acquire a driver’s license without a social security number, meaning that undocumented immigrants who need to drive face constant “structural trauma” while on the road.

“The state is not a sanctuary for people,” she said. “[Being deported] is a constant fear that somebody is living with. And so I think that H.B. 579 will ensure that they feel a little safer because they’ll be cautioned about what they might be going through.”

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