With illegal crossings up and federal aid down, Sununu wants $1.4 million for border patrols
This story was originally produced by the New Hampshire Bulletin, an independent local newsroom that allows NHPR and other outlets to republish its reporting.
A record number of people, many families with young children and infants, entered the country illegally from Canada in January, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Gov. Chris Sununu has asked lawmakers for $1.4 million to beef up patrols along New Hampshire’s 58 miles that border Canada.
The creation of a new Northern Border Alliance Program would give the state police nearly $620,000 for overtime, training, and equipment purchases, according to the request in House Bill 2. The remaining approximately $816,000 would be available to other state, county, and local law enforcement agencies to cover overtime costs for border patrol.
Tyler Dumont, spokesperson for the Department of Safety, said the request is in response to an increase in illegal crossings as federal funding for border patrol decreases.
Dumont said the state has seen its federal funding for border patrol drop from nearly $304,000 in 2020 to $180,000 in 2021. He said the department expects to see the same funding this year, far short of its nearly $338,000 request.
Dumont referred the Bulletin to a February report from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that said the number of illegal crossings reached record highs in January within the “Swanton Sector,” which includes Coos, Grafton, and Caroll counties, as well as Vermont and parts of New York. The 367 apprehensions that month were higher than the total number of apprehensions in the prior 12 Januaries combined, which totaled 344, according to the report.
It did not break down the illegal crossings by state.
Meanwhile illegal crossings from the United States into Canada are also surging, the New York Times reported Thursday. The nearly 40,000 migrants that crossed into Canada illegally last year was more than twice the number in 2019, the Times reported.
The Legislature won’t decide for months which of Sununu’s requests will remain in the budget. The Department of Safety isn’t waiting for a decision. Dumont said that department is establishing a partnership among state police, the Fish and Game Department, the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and the Colebrook and Pittsburgh police departments.
He said the Northern Border Alliance Program would help coordinate joint security, protection, and rescue services within 25 miles of the state’s border with Canada.
In 2020, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire brought a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Border Patrol checkpoints on Interstate 93 in Woodstock. The ACLU has since encouraged those who are stopped to video record the encounter and share it with the organization. It has also created a guide to the legal rights and protections of those stopped by border patrol.
In a statement Friday, SangYeob Kim, staff attorney at the ACLU of New Hampshire, called the proposed funding for border security “a harmful, wasteful use of Granite Staters’ taxpayer dollars.”
Kim cited housing, mental health, substance use services, and education as pressing needs that funding would be diverted from “to expand harmful and counterproductive policing and surveillance in the North Country.”
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