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Checkpoints by Customs Border Patrol Rile Some Mainers

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Monday, June 25, 2018   

BANGOR, Maine – Some drivers and passengers were annoyed, others angry and afraid when they were stopped last week by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents as the travelers headed south on I-95 in Penobscot County.

They weren't allowed to proceed until they said where they were born and whether they are U.S. citizens.

Videos obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union show that agents at checkpoints told motorists if they didn't respond, they'd be detained indefinitely. One person was arrested.

According to Maine ACLU staff attorney Emma Bond, checkpoints like these impinge on people's rights against unreasonable search and their right to remain silent.

"The checkpoints in Penobscot County are another example of the Border Patrol's "show me your papers" policies that make all of us less free,” she states. “These checkpoints pose the risk of bias and subjective enforcement that the Fourth Amendment is designed to prevent."

This was at least the second checkpoint this year in Maine. At the Bangor Transportation Center in January, agents boarded Concord Coach Lines buses and asked people about their citizenship.

Federal officials say their aim is to capture suspected terrorists and people in the U.S. illegally, and the Border Patrol has the legal right to operate within 100 miles of the U.S. border.

As the situation continues to unfold on the U.S. /Mexico border, Bond says elected officials, as well as the public, need to get involved in the fight to protect civil liberties.

The ACLU of Maine filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in January to get details about Border Patrol enforcement operations in the state, but according to Bond, CBP has refused to cooperate.

"We've heard reports of a general increase in immigration enforcement, and that takes several forms,” she states. “We've heard reports of DHS agents going to courthouses, which were previously safe places. They've been going to bus stations, and now we've heard about this checkpoint."

Bond adds there also are questions of whether people of color are being targeted, whether local police are working with CBP agents and the legality of using drug-sniffing dogs at checkpoints, which is now illegal in neighboring New Hampshire.


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