By John Lynds
Two Excel Academy Charter School students were among the 14 people detained as part of U.S. Border Patrol operation a week ago in Lincoln, N.H. Border Patrol officers established the checkpoint with the support of the Woodstock Police Department on Interstate 93 in Lincoln.
“Checkpoints are just one of the tools we utilize to enforce the immigration and other federal laws of our nation,” said Swanton Sector Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent John Pfeifer. “In addition to technology, manpower and intelligence, checkpoints help to deny access to major routes of egress away from the border and into our communities in the interior of the U.S.”
The checkpoint was the first major enforcement action of this type in five years in New Hampshire and while it resulted in the detention of 25 undocumented immigrants, two of those immigrants were Excel Students who were thriving in school according to Excel’s Executive Director Owen Stearns. Stearns confirmed the students detained were enrolled in Excel’s 7th grade and 11 grade classes. School has already begun for one of the state’s top charter school.
In a statement Stearns said the two students, whose names have not been released, were ‘exceptional students’ and were involved in athletics at the school and were leaders in their class.
President Donald Trumps hardline stance on immigration and executive orders made people like Stearns nervous. With 80 percent of his student body Latino students from Eastie and surrounding neighborhoods Stearns said Excel families on alert, especially after Trump’s executive order calling for more Border Patrol checkpoint operations throughout the country.
“I think we sort of girding ourselves for this and are now very sad and distressed and angry that it happened,” said Stearns in a statement. “And also fearful that it may continue to happen and this may not be the last time.”
Civil liberties groups, including the ACLU, argue these checkpoints violate Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizures.
“The Supreme Court has upheld the use of immigration checkpoints, but only insofar as the stops consist only of a brief and limited inquiry into residence status. Checkpoints cannot be primarily used for drug-search or general law enforcement efforts. In practice, however, Border Patrol agents often do not limit themselves to brief immigration inquiries and regularly conduct criminal investigations and illegal searches at checkpoints,” says ACLU-NH legal director Gilles Bissonnette in a statement.
While the checkpoint detained 25 undocumented immigrants, it also resulted in the seizure of two pounds of marijuana, as well as smaller amounts of cocaine, mushrooms and hash oil–all taken from U.S. citizens. This resulted in 32 arrests outside of the 25 people detained during the operation.
The detention of the two Excel students came a week before Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, escalating the White House’s targeting of immigrant communities.
“Repealing DACA subjects over 800,000 young people to deportation,” said Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, Esq. “Beneficiaries of DACA, known as Dreamers, came to the United States as children and grew up here becoming integral members of our society. Deporting Dreamers would send them back to countries to which they have little or no connection and subject them in many cases to intense violence or poverty present in some of those countries. DACA’s repeal comes on the heels of pardoning ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio.”
City Councilor Sal LaMattina said he stands with the ‘Dreamers’ and the students recently detained in New Hampshire.
“Today is a very sad day for nearly 800,000 Dreamers in United States, many who live in my district,” said LaMattina. “I can’t imagine the fear in these children.”