A State Senate committee this week reinstated $1.4 million in the proposed state budget to expand policing at the border, but has no data showing any increase in NH crossings
CONCORD, N.H. - The ACLU of New Hampshire today filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on the number of apprehensions and encounters at the New Hampshire-Canada border. When asked previously for the information, CBP has said 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.
“While lawmakers in Concord debate allocating taxpayer dollars for increased policing and surveillance at the northern border, Granite Staters have a clear interest in the data behind the actual need for such funding–data which CBP has, but has denied sharing on the state level,” said SangYeob Kim, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU of New Hampshire.
This comes alongside a $1.4 million dollar state budget proposal from Governor Sununu 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 ACLU of New Hampshire in March also 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.
“The Governor’s office and Department of Safety have been unable to show any evidence of an increase in unauthorized crossings in New Hampshire, and yet are still using fear-based rhetoric to justify a massive expansion of police power and surveillance,” said Frank Knaack, Policy Director at the ACLU of New Hampshire. “This lack of data presents serious concerns about the accuracy of their claims being made in public, to the media, and to congress. Worse, the policies they propose have been shown in study after study to have negative impacts on public safety.”
As the lawsuit details, because there is a budget proposal that relies on this information, there is a compelling public interest in releasing this 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.”
The budget funding request is part of a broader effort to deputize local, county, and state law enforcement to conduct federal border enforcement.
This news surrounding the border also comes alongside a bill making its way through the legislative process, Senate Bill 132 (SB 132), which would force local New Hampshire police to do Immigration and Customs Enforcement's bidding and necessitate that police engage in federal immigration enforcement at the request of ICE officials, including aiding in the detention of individuals who the federal government is looking to detain. Immigration detainers are not signed by a judge, do not go through due process, and are not related to criminal activity. SB 132 has been opposed by multiple New Hampshire law enforcement leaders, including the Chiefs of Police in Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth, and the Sheriffs in Cheshire and Strafford counties because of the bill’s potential impact on the ability of law enforcement to build community trust in their communities.