NEW IPSWICH, N.H.
In early 2004, Garrett Chamberlain -- police chief of 99 percent-white Ipswich, N.H. -- told the local paper that his chief concern was "criminal mischief and behavioral problems" caused by congregating teenagers. But a year later, Chief Chamberlain had a whole new set of priorities that came to national attention when he charged three illegal immigrants with trespassing -- into the United States, that is.
Chamberlain says his concerns began earlier when he stopped a van full of undocumented Ecuadorean immigrants but reluctantly agreed to release them when he realized they had committed no state crime and immigration authorities declined to come to Ipswich to seize and deport them. The incident angered the chief, and he went to consult a local prosecutor about what could be done. Then, when the next opportunity presented itself in early 2005 -- police found three illegal aliens who had pulled off the road to make a cell phone call -- Chamberlain had them arrested under the state's trespassing statute, which makes it a crime if a person, "knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so ... enters or remains in any place."
Many found the charge ridiculous, including New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark McKenzie, who called it "an embarrassment." A judge quickly agreed, ruling, as many have before him, that only the federal government can enforce immigration laws (entering the country illegally is a federal misdemeanor), and throwing out the charges against the three men. But others saw the matter quite differently. Chamberlain was repeatedly interviewed by anti-immigration radio hosts. He received more than 2,000 supportive cards and E-mails. He was given a hero's welcome at a major anti-immigration summit held in Las Vegas over the Memorial Day weekend, and urged to run for office.
Chamberlain isn't quitting. This September, speaking to a crowd in Concord, N.H., on the same bill as Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist and Congressman Tom Tancredo, he said he's "not done trying."