Posted on May 5, 2005

N.H. Tries Tactic with Illegal Immigrants

Kathy McCormack, AP, May 3

JAFFREY, N.H. — A small-town police chief used a criminal trespassing charge to try to turn back one illegal immigrant, saying he was frustrated that lax federal enforcement means “if you make it past the border patrol, you’re free and clear.”

New Ipswich Police Chief W. Garrett Chamberlain charged a Mexican citizen with criminal trespassing — a violation comparable to a traffic ticket — on April 15 after immigration officials refused to take him into custody.

Jorge Ramirez, 21, was having trouble with his sport utility vehicle and had pulled along a state road. When a police officer asked for identification, Ramirez admitted he was living in the United States illegally, working for a construction company.

Ramirez pleaded guilty to the trespassing charge as well as operating a vehicle without a valid license. He agreed to report to immigration authorities by Friday.

“It’s basically a situation here where right now if you make it past the border patrol, you’re free and clear,” Chamberlain said. “What I’m hoping to do is find a way that if the feds aren’t going to help us out, then local enforcement can take care of it.”

The criminal trespassing statute says a person is guilty if, “knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place.”

“It is a novel application of state law,” said Kris Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a specialist in immigration law who was counsel to former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Paula Grenier, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, criticized the tactic.

“The police chief is choosing to use this alien to grandstand about illegal immigration,” she said. “We prioritize our investigations on criminals and criminal networks that pose a threat.”