LEBANON, N.H. (AP) – The U.S. Border Patrol reached about 100 miles south of the Canadian border on Tuesday, setting up a checkpoint on Interstate 89 to look for illegal aliens or others violating immigration laws.

With checkpoints so far from the border, officers hope to catch people who slipped over the border undetected and are making their way farther into the country.

“It’s kind of a backup to patrolling the actual wooded area,” said Border Patrol Officer Gary Lucey. Border patrol officers set up checkpoints where major highways, such as interstates 89 and 91, converge, officers said, hoping to find illegal aliens who caught rides after crossing the border.

Checkpoints are occasionally set up in Maine along Interstate 95 north of Augusta, well below border crossing points.

To avoid traffic jams, officers try to “screen out” what they believe is either local traffic – vehicles with New Hampshire and Vermont plates, for example – or vacation traffic – vehicles with families or hauling trailers or boats, said Officer John Pfeifer, the agent in charge of the checkpoint.

He said officers ask drivers about their citizenship.

“If they’re not U.S. citizens, they have to have some sort of immigration papers,” Pfeifer said. “We try and talk with everybody,” he said. “The question is ‘What’s your citizenship.’ “

Pfeifer said the checkpoint was routine, and have been set up in the region for years.

Border Patrol officials ran a checkpoint on Interstate 91 in White River Junction last summer for four days, yielding about 25 arrests that included people who had illegally entered the country, and immigrants who had overstayed their visas or committed a crime while in the United States.

As of 4:30 p.m., border officers had not made any arrests or detained anyone, Pfeifer said.

AP-ES-07-09-03 1137EDT

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