The bill will face its first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on February 10.
Earlier this month, the New Hampshire State House of Representatives passed HB 579, requiring public notice before immigration checkpoints are conducted, by a bipartisan vote of 254 votes against. 85. The bill has been introduced in the Senate and referred to the Judiciary Committee, although it has not yet been given a deadline.
Originally sponsored by Rep. Kevin Craig of Coos, New Hampshire, a Republican, the bill will require local law enforcement agencies, which are notified of checkpoints scheduled by federal agencies, to alert the public in 24 hours following a scheduled checkpoint. If passed by the Senate and approved by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, the bill would go into effect immediately to amend RSA 265, “Obedience and Effect of Traffic Laws.” The amendment would appear directly after the sections regarding sobriety checkpoints and motorcycle-only checkpoints.
Craig, a retired Federal Bureau of Prisons officer, said he proposed the bill because New Hampshire had an “inconsistent approach” to highway checkpoints, which are a court-granted exception to the Fourth Amendment: While law enforcement is required to notify the public of sobriety checkpoints, they are currently not required to make immigration checkpoints public. HB 579 would require local law enforcement to publicize upcoming immigration checkpoints by disclosing the time and location using “various media resources available.”
According to Craig, the public’s lack of knowledge about immigration checkpoints has led to “mile-long” back-ups along major highways, which can delay emergency service vehicles, cause problems for employees at work due to delays and create inconvenience and distress to local residents or visitors who are people of color.
“People should be able to avoid these checkpoints if they want to, and to do that they need to know about them,” Craig said. “There is a security risk, it takes away valuable resources and decreases [Customs and Border Patrol’s] efficiency, and of course there are a lot of disparity issues.
Craig said Democratic Representative Latha Mangipudi of Hillsborough, New Hampshire, the first Native American to be elected to the state legislature, testified that she and her family members were stuck at an immigration checkpoint despite coming from abroad despite valid visas, which caused both inconvenience and fear.
“It’s just not fair,” Craig said. “It’s not a good policy.”
Craig added that he thought the bill had garnered broad bipartisan support because there was “something for everyone” in the bill in terms of policy objectives – as well as the fact that the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire had helped work on the bill before it passed. .
ACLU of New Hampshire legal director Gilles Bissonette said the checkpoints “present a real civil liberties issue” because they are being conducted “without any reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime has been committed.” , so the ACLU hoped to help “mitigate those civil liberties.” intrusion as much as possible.
“We are very grateful to the sponsor for [Craig’s] work to push that,” Bissonette said. “This is an important piece of legislation, and we just wanted to provide as much help as possible to Rep. Craig.”
According to Bissonette, the ACLU will continue to support the bill “every step of the way,” including the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Feb. 10. After the hearing, committee members will make a recommendation on the bill in an executive session, and the rest of the Senate will vote on the bill. If it passes, it must be signed by Governor Sununu to become law.
Dafne Valenciano ’25, ambassador for the Coalition for Immigration Reform and Equality in Dartmouth, said she hopes the bill becomes law so undocumented students and immigrants who are local residents “feel more comfortable and supported”.
“[These people] are human and shouldn’t have to go through an amount of emotional pain with the constant fear that they already face,” Valenciano said. “If someone is undocumented or an immigrant, if they are aware of what is happening, they can protect themselves and take the necessary measures so that they are not afraid of deportation or discrimination.”
Valenciano noted that unlike his home state of California, New Hampshire does not allow residents to acquire a driver’s license without a Social Security number, which means undocumented immigrants who must drive face constant “structural trauma” on the road.
“The state is not a sanctuary for people,” she said. “[Being deported] is a constant fear that someone lives with. And so I think HB 579 will make them feel a little safer because they’ll be warned of what they might be going through.