On May 22, 2023, the ACLU of New Hampshire filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on the number of apprehensions and encounters at the New Hampshire-Canada border from October 2022 to January 2023. When asked previously for this information, CBP has said that it cannot release state specific data. Rather, CBP has only produced apprehension numbers from all of the Swanton Sector, which covers a 295-mile section of the border spanning New Hampshire, Vermont, and parts of New York. New Hampshire’s border constitutes 58 of those 295 miles.
This lawsuit comes at a time when Governor Chris Sununu is making a $1.4 million dollar state budget proposal to expand policing and surveillance at the border, which he and state officials say is in response to an increase in unauthorized New Hampshire border crossings – data which the state does not appear to have. The budget funding request is also part of a broader state effort to deputize local, county, and state law enforcement to conduct federal border enforcement. However, the ACLU of New Hampshire in March 2023 filed right-to-know requests with Governor Sununu’s Office and the N.H. Department of Safety and found that neither office could provide any data to support their claims of increased unauthorized border crossings along New Hampshire’s northern border.
In recognition of this, the New Hampshire House of Representatives stripped this proposal out of the budget. However, the Senate Finance Committee recently voted to restore this funding to the budget in a proposal that will soon be voted on by the full state senate.
As the lawsuit details, because there is a budget proposal that relies on this apprehension information in CBP's possession, there is a compelling public interest in releasing this CBP data. Yet in the face of this obvious public interest, CBP categorically rejected the ACLU-NH’s initial request because “CBP does not release enforcement statistics and/or enforcement data at less than a Sector or Field Officer level.” CBP made this statement despite the fact that a local news outlet, WMUR, reported the fact that no crossing was “recorded in New Hampshire” between October 2022 and January 2023, while “there were 94 people…taken into custody across Vermont and New York.” The lawsuit states, “This is not a lawful or valid excuse for CBP to withhold the information. CBP can only withhold the requested information by specifically citing statutory exemptions Congress provided." None exists here.