By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Prohibiting sanctuary cities in New Hampshire will not get a recommendation for passage from the House Municipal and County Government Committee.
On a vote of 9-11, the committee voted against passage of Senate Bill 132.
A motion to kill the bill failed also Wednesday on a 10-10 vote meaning that it will not get a recommendation from the committee when it reaches the floor of the House.
The state has at least 12 communities that have some form of sanctuary including Manchester and many communities in Cheshire County.
Sen. Bill Gannon, R-Sandown who sponsored the bill, said it seeks a level of cooperation from municipalities and federal agents who want to execute an immigration detainer. He said it would not be enforcing federal law but cooperating with it.
He cited the crisis at the Southern Border as a reason to protect citizens of the state in this measure.
But the bill was opposed by municipalities and by the American Civil Liberties Union-NH also as an intrusion into local control.
The ACLU-NH noted these detainers are mostly civil matters and that many courts have found where federal agents had no probable cause. It also warned of possible Constitutional liabilities within the Fourth Amendment and likely court challenges.
The bill included here https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/billinfo.aspx?id=914&inflect=2 had passed the Senate along partisan lines, 14-10 following a public hearing in the Senate in which 118 were listed as opposing the bill and 13 were listed as in favor.
State Rep. Jonah Wheeler, D-Peterborough, was joined by State Rep. Josh Yokela, R-Fremont, in opposition to the bill.
Wheeler said there was no need for it as communities that do have some form of sanctuary policy do work with immigration.
Yokela said he was hoping for a “no recommendation” outcome.
But others on the committee said they felt the bill was central to the legislature’s role to protect citizens’ health and safety and that illegal immigration was part of the societal and fiscal decay occurring both internationally and within the state in the past few years.
State Rep. Richard Lascelles, R-Litchfield, said the bill is “fundamental to our responsibility” and chaos would ensue “if we are going to be choosing what laws we are going to enforce.”
Drugs from those that come into the state illegally are “poisoning” residents, he said.
“This bill is a step in the right direction to get things back in line.”
State Rep. Diane Pauer, R-Brookline, vice chair of the committee, said she spent a lot of time and analysis on the bill.
She said she felt this struck a balance in the middle of allowing cooperation.
“We don’t want to be at any extreme,” Pauer said and noted that the bill allows police departments discretion in prioritizing resources but limits the outright prohibition of cooperation.
The two committee reports on the bill are expected to be filed on Friday.