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New numbers detail the number of unlawful crossings at NH’s northern border

This photo was taken along U.S. Route 3 in New Hampshire in August 2010.
Doug Kerr
Flickr Creative Commons - Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
This photo was taken along U.S. Route 3 in New Hampshire in August 2010.

In the past year, New Hampshire’s northern border has come under the scrutiny of state politicians who claim a reported increase in crossings there requires more resources.

But new data from Customs and Border Protection obtained by the ACLU of New Hampshire shows there were 21 encounters or apprehensions between October 2022 and December 2023.

Last fall, without state-specific data of illegal crossings publicly available, Gov. Chris Sununu dedicated $1.4 million to purchase unspecified equipment and increase police patrols within 25 miles of the border.

State politicians used data for the 295 border miles of the Swanton Sector, which comprises part of New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont to justify the so-called Northern Border Alliance. In fiscal year 2023, there were 6,925 encounters across the entire sector compared to 1,065 in fiscal year 2022.

The Granite State comprises just 58 miles of that border.

In May 2023, advocates sued US Customs and Border Protection to obtain state-specific numbers. Under a settlement agreement, Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol had until Jan. 31, 2024 to turn over the data.

Read a first hand account of being caught in NH’s border ‘crisis’

Gilles Bissonnette, the ACLU of New Hampshire's legal director, said the state acted on a false premise that New Hampshire needed a millionaire fund to battle a significant surge of illegal crossings.

“We have that data now, and it shows that it is not a crisis,” he said.

But in a statement, the Attorney General’s office called the data obtained by the ACLU “misleading,” because it only includes apprehensions and “not the total number of interactions at the northern border in New Hampshire, nor does it include what the Border Patrol calls known ‘got aways’ unknown ‘got aways’ or sensor activations in New Hampshire during FY2023."

Gov. Chris Sununu also said the data was cherry-picked in a statement to WMUR, and that “we expect to see numbers increase as the Northern Border Alliance patrols continue to ramp up."

On Wednesday, the Executive Council approved sending over $500,000 to Fish and Game and six police departments to help with patrols. Bisonnette says the ACLU will use the CBP data they obtained to argue that the program is unnecessary, dangerous, and should expire.

“Suggesting that there is a crisis without data that support it is stigmatizing to the immigrant community that live here,” Bissonnette said. “We should invest [that fund] in communities, not police in parts of the state that doesn't need it with respect of immigration.”

Bissonnette says the ACLU did not request data of crossings from other years.

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Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.
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