HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Plans Call for Border Patrol Checkpoints to Become
Pubdate: Fri, 17 Mar 2006
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2006 Burlington Free Press
Author: Erica Jacobson
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


A U.S. Department of Homeland Security proposal to turn two temporary
U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints along interstates in central Vermont
and northern New York into permanent stations staffed by dozens of
agents drew questions, opposition and praise from lawmakers and state
and local officials Thursday.

"We find nothing to be concerned about," said Hunter Rieseberg, town
manager of Hartford, where Border Patrol agents have run a checkpoint
out of an Interstate 91 rest area since December 2003. "There's no
reason why we would not welcome them as part of our community. We
think they'll be great neighbors."

John Zicconi, spokesman for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, said
discussions with federal officials have left many unanswered questions
about the proposal.

"We have concerns if they take our building or the land there at
Hartford," Zicconi said. "There's no real place to put a rest area."

The Hartford checkpoint began daily operation in December 2003 when
the national terror alert was raised to orange. A second checkpoint 75
miles south of the border along Interstate 87 in North Hudson, N.Y.,
opened at the same time and has since been the site of two major
crashes. In Sept. 19, 2004, a tractor-trailer smashed into vehicles
waiting at the checkpoint, resulting in the death of four people.

According to Assistant Chief Patrol Agent John Pfeifer of the Border
Patrol's Swanton Sector, border agents have the authority to operate
checkpoints within 100 air miles of the border to supplement work done
by federal agents at official ports of entry and along the border.
Pfeifer said the stops, in their more than two years of operation,
have resulted in the arrests of more than 1,300 illegal aliens and the
seizure of more than $478,000 in U.S. currency and about 2,000 pounds
of marijuana valued at more than $11 million.

"We can't be everywhere all the time," Pfeifer said. "Checkpoints are
a tool that we use to augment our primary line of defense."

Details about a feasibility study already under way for the proposal
have come to light in recent weeks at the federal and state level.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., questioned Department of Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff in a Feb. 28 memo regarding the
department's plans to replace the temporary checkpoint in Hartford
with a permanent facility. In the memo submitted to Chertoff during a
subcommittee meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy
said he understood that the Hartford checkpoint was due to be
dismantled in May 2005.

"You can imagine my surprise this week when I learned that DHS quietly
has begun conducting a feasibility study to see whether it should
build a permanent checkpoint on I-91," Leahy wrote to Chertoff. "What
about the situation on the southern border has changed so much that
shifting 25-30 Border Patrol agents to a checkpoint 92 miles from the
border with Canada makes sense?"

That question and several others Leahy posed to Chertoff have yet to
be answered, Leahy spokesman David Carle said. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake