ELIZABETHTOWN — A U.S. Customs and Border Protection official says the infrequent Interstate 87 checkpoint in Essex County is essential to its mission.
Norman Lague, the agent in charge at the U.S. Border Patrol Station in Champlain, visited the County Board of Supervisors recently to garner support for the controversial North Hudson stop.
“Essex County is very important to our border-security issue,” he said. “Our main focus is criminal interdiction.”
Lague said they’ve identified 53 groups and 150 individuals smuggling through the Akwesasne Reservation that spans the border between Massena and Malone.
“In North Hudson, we have an (Interstate) 87 checkpoint we run sporadically, based on intelligence,” Lague said. “That is a key factor on how we conduct our mission.
“The checkpoint is a necessity, in my opinion.”
The agency has made major busts at the North Hudson checkpoint, he said, but he isn’t allowed to discuss them.
“There have been some significant arrests for marijuana, Ecstasy, currency, alien smuggling made at that checkpoint. (Interstate) 87 is a major corridor that facilitates passage to Boston and New York (City).”
In one case, a farmer provided Border Patrol with a photo of a smuggler crossing the border wearing a 100-pound backpack, Lague said. The photograph was taken when the smuggler tripped a game camera on a farm at the border.
“We did not interdict this individual. The individual was headed south; we assume he jumped on I-87.”
Lague, who has 18 years experience at both U.S. borders, said the New York-Vermont-New Hampshire patrol district has 310 agents and eight stations. It covers 295 miles of border, of which 92 are on waterways.
He said that, from 2008 to July 2013, they made 1,400 arrests of people who were present in their patrol district without legal admission to the United States. Twenty-four individuals from banned countries like Iran were among those arrested.