U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents set up a checkpoint on Interstate 95 Wednesday hoping to catch undocumented immigrants traveling through Penobscot County, Maine, according to Bangor Daily News.
For 11 hours, CPB agents stopped traffic to inquire about vehicle occupants’ citizenship status, affecting all south-bound travellers.
“If you want to continue down the road, then yes ma’am. We need to know what citizen — what country you’re a citizen of,” an agent said Wednesday evening to two BDN reporters who went through the checkpoint. When questioned about what would happen if a driver declined to answer, he said the car would only be able to keep going if, after further questioning and upon the agent’s judgment, “the agent is pretty sure that you’re U.S. citizens.”
An unidentified Haitian man with outstanding deportation orders was discovered by CPB agents and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Removal Operations, according to BDN. He had previously been arrested on charges of charges of drug possession, carrying a concealed weapon and for resisting an officer.
BDN notes that such checkpoints are routine and have been in place for years, but they are not without controversy.
Much as it has fought immigration checks on buses, the American Civil Liberties Union has also attacked highway checkpoints as government harassment.
On Wednesday, attorney Emma Bond said the Maine ACLU was also interested in learning more about the highway checks as it pursued records about the bus checks.
“People have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, whether at a bus station or on the road,” she said.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Public Affairs Officer Steve Sapp said travellers have the right to remain silent during traffic stops at immigration checkpoints, but such individuals might be asked to pull out of traffic for further questioning.
If they refuse to comply, they could face charges.
In 2010, a border patrol agent called I-95 an ideal location for immigration checkpoint operations because it is a “choke point” for people heading south from the Canadian border, according to BDN archives. Similar to an the explanation given at that time, an agent on Wednesday described the Howland stop as a “random checkpoint” to “see what we can catch.”