State Republican leaders announced at a press conference Friday they will seek to outlaw sanctuary cities and rewrite bail laws to address a surge in illegal crossings from Canada. From left, Rep. Terry Roy of Deerfiled, party Chairman Chris Ager, and Sen. Daryl Abbas of Salem. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)
State Republican Party leaders announced Friday they are pursuing several initiatives to address increased illegal crossings from Canada, including legislation tightening bail laws and outlawing so-called “sanctuary cities,” and extending a welcome to immigrants and refugees who are in the state legally.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced in February an 846 percent increase in encounters and apprehensions within the Swanton Sector, which includes New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The number of illegal crossings along New Hampshire’s 58-mile border with Canada is unclear because the agency does not release state-level data.
At a press event Friday outside the State House, state Republican Party Chairman Chris Ager said he’d like to have the New Hampshire numbers but doesn’t need them to justify the party’s initiatives.
“Having a Brazilian mass murderer picked up in Rye and four illegals who had to pay a smuggler to come across who were apprehended in New Hampshire, I mean, that alone is enough,” Ager said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced in August that it had arrested, in Rye, a former Brazilian military officer who fled Brazil after being convicted of murdering 11 people, though the agency did not say how the man arrived in New Hampshire.
Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Hampshire announced it had charged a Mexican man who was in the country illegally with smuggling four people across the border, through Vermont and then into New Hampshire. In July, a New York man was arrested in New Hampshire on charges he helped transport nine undocumented immigrants into the state, across the Canadian border.
Illegal crossings from Canada have become a top political issue in the state since federal officials announced the dramatic increase in apprehensions and encounters along the Swanton Sector border, which runs 295 miles. Federal authorities said it had logged 367 incidents in the tri-state sector in January, more than the 344 incidents recorded in the prior 12 Januaries combined.
Gov. Chris Sununu included $1.5 million in the budget to beef up security along the border and in August wrote to the federal delegation asking for additional help. He made a similar request to the secretary of homeland security last year.
Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial candidates Kelly Ayotte and Chuck Morse have visited the northern border and made the issue a campaign focus. The state Republican Party joined them Friday.
Sen. Daryl Abbas, a Salem Republican, said Republicans plan to reintroduce legislation that would make it illegal for state or local governments to restrict cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A similar effort failed the past two years.
“We trust the police to do a lot of things to keep us safe on a daily basis,” he said. “There’s no reason why we wouldn’t trust them with this issue. This is something that we need to address now. This is a problem. It’s getting worse. We don’t need to wait and watch it get worse.”
During the discussion of the party’s opposition to sanctuary cities, Ager said, “We don’t want to turn the state into what we call now Manchganistan.”
According to a record from the U.S Border Patrol, in 2020, the most recent data available, agents did not encounter or apprehend anyone with Afghanistan citizenship.
When asked what he meant by the phrase, Ager said it had been coined by locals and pointed to crime in Manchester.
“Just the amount of crime and the number of murders that are on the increase in Manchester has created kind of an underground nickname,” Ager said of the phrase. “It still can be turned but we don’t want to turn it around in that direction.”
When asked if the use of the phrase suggested he believed Afghan citizens in the state were contributing to the crime rate, Ager said no.
Rep. Terry Roy, a Deerfield Republican, said Republicans will renew efforts to tighten bail laws. He said that could include improving technology so local law enforcement officers could easily check whether a person they have stopped is free on bail from another jurisdiction. Additionally, legislation could identify specific crimes that would be ineligible for bail as well as weekend bail hearings, he said.
The effort is almost certain to face complications. Past efforts to rewrite bail laws have never made it out of the Legislature, including five bills that failed. House lawmakers said in June they would take a comprehensive look at bail options this summer and fall.
The party launched its third initiative, reaching out to immigrants and refugees who are in the country legally, six months ago, Ager said. That has included talking with the Nepalese community in Manchester. A meeting with the Somali community is planned, he said.
We want “to make sure they feel welcomed,” Ager said. “If they have language barriers and need help fitting in in the community, we want to help them fit in.”
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