NEW IPSWICH—In the latest twist of his public battle against illegal immigrants, Police Chief Garrett Chamberlain has taken what may be a unique legal approach: He has charged a man from Mexico with criminal trespass because he was in town without legal documents.
“He’s in the country illegally so obviously he’s in New Ipswich illegally,” said Chamberlain of the arrest, which was made on the shoulder of Turnpike Road after a routine inquiry Friday.
As defined in state law (RSA 635:2), a person is guilty of criminal trespass “if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place.”
Jorge Mora Ramirez, 21, who is living in Waltham, Mass., but is from Mexico, admitted to police that he was in the country on forged documents, Chamberlain said. Therefore, the chief said, Ramirez knew he wasn’t “licensed” to enter or remain in New Ipswich and so was guilty of criminal trespass.
Immigration law is generally a federal matter that doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of local police departments. But Chamberlain has often expressed frustration with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the past.
“It’s a novel theory,” said state Assistant Attorney Robert Carey, whose office was asked Monday by Chamberlain’s department whether the charge was allowed. “We aren’t aware of any sort of contrary authority to it, if you look at the statute.”
New Ipswich police have had previous disputes with federal immigration officials over illegal aliens, including a much-publicized incident last July when New Ipswich detained nine men but had to let them go after ICE didn’t provide any assistance. Town police also arrested 11 illegal aliens from Mexico last October, but federal officials quickly showed up and took the group away.