ACLU-NH: Patrol at NH-Canada Border Saw Only 21 Encounters in 15 Months

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Gov. Chris Sununu and Safety Commissioner Robert Quinn are pictured with Pittsburg Police Chief Richard Dube and an unidentified Border Patrol agent Aug. 3, 2023, at the Northern Border.

Gov. Chris Sununu responded to this news release saying: “Securing our northern border is widely supported by citizens across New Hampshire, and cherry-picked data from the ACLU will never impact New Hampshire’s obligation to protecting our citizens.  Due to the regionality of this crisis, focusing on state specific data is short sighted and misleading. The Swanton Sector continues to see record numbers of migrant crossings across New England, and for most of the last two years, New Hampshire has had limited resources patrolling the border due to federal inaction. We expect to see numbers increase as the Northern Border Alliance patrols continue to ramp up.”

State Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro responded to ACLU-NH new release: “The ACLU supports open border policies and Senate Republicans will not allow open border activists to downplay this issue. We have a border crisis. We have drugs, human trafficking, and crime occurring on both borders. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, just last year we had 240,000 doses of Fentanyl come into our country from the northern border, which is enough to kill almost every single resident of the three largest cities in New Hampshire: Manchester, Nashua, and Concord. Illegal border activity increased by over 600% from 2021 across The Swanton Sector.   New Hampshire residents want a secure border, especially when border encounter numbers will rise as the Northern Border Alliance patrols increase. Senate Republicans will continue to protect Granite Staters from the disastrous Biden Administration border policies, including prohibiting sanctuary cities in our state.”

The New Hampshire Department of Justice responded to the ACLU-NH news release: “It is disappointing that the Biden Administration has decided to release select data directly to the ACLU without providing any New Hampshire specific data relating to the northern border to New Hampshire law enforcement partners. The data released is also misleading. The New Hampshire-specific information released to the ACLU today only encapsulates ‘apprehensions’ made by U.S. Border Patrol agents in 2023. It does not take into account a whole host of variables including (but not limited to) 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. It is also important to note that this incomplete snapshot represents data collected by a severely limited number of U.S. Border Patrol assets patrolling the state in 2023. New Hampshire law enforcement officials were warned by our federal partners in 2023 that assets normally assigned to New Hampshire were being pulled away from New Hampshire to address the crisis at the southern border. Due to fewer federal assets patrolling the northern border, New Hampshire law enforcement became concerned with the increase in regional ‘Swanton Sector’ encounters as well as the warnings sent by federal law enforcement partners on the ground. The Northern Border Alliance Task force will continue its work to protect public safety in the North Country and across the State.”

CBP agrees to produce specific NH apprehension data after ACLU-NH FOIA lawsuit seeking this information

With data finally available, there are renewed questions over the $1.4 million in taxpayer funds being used for massive expansion of policing and surveillance in northern NH

CONCORD – The ACLU of New Hampshire today unveiled that Border Patrol only had 21 apprehensions or encounters at the New Hampshire-Canada border during the 15 months between October 1, 2022 and December 31, 2023. The long-awaited data is being released as a result of a settlement in the ACLU of New Hampshire’s lawsuit seeking the data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“No state official has been able to show any evidence to support claims of an increase in unauthorized border apprehensions in New Hampshire–and now we know why: because for 15 months, there were only 21 CBP encounters that occurred in New Hampshire. During the time period in which state officials suggested that there was a crisis at the New Hampshire-Canada border from October 2022 to January 2023, there was only one encounter in New Hampshire,” said Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire. “The dangerous policies they justified through fear-based rhetoric have been shown in study after study to have negative impacts on public safety. It’s time to stop funding the unnecessary and harmful expansion of policing and surveillance at New Hampshire’s northern border and instead focus on the real needs of the north country, like housing, substance use treatment, and mental health resources.”

The ACLU of New Hampshire filed its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on May 22, 2023 after CBP initially declined to release border apprehension data specific to New Hampshire. State politicians used data for the entire Swanton Sector, 295 border miles of which the Granite State comprises just 58, in an attempt to justify a $1.4 million budget to fund a massive expansion of police power and surveillance in northern New Hampshire.

“For nearly a year, Granite Staters have had a clear interest in accessing this data – which CBP had denied sharing on the state level, but has agreed to now share with the public,” said SangYeob Kim, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU of New Hampshire. “Disclosure of this data is of critical importance as state lawmakers once again debate whether to allocate taxpayer dollars for increased policing and surveillance at the northern border.”

The number of encounters by CBP per month is as follows:

October 2022: 0
November 2022: 0
December 2022: 0
Jan 2023: 1
Feb 2023: 0
Mar 2023: 0
Apr 2023: 0
May 2023: 0
June 2023: 9
July 2023: 1
Aug 2023: 3
Sept 2023: 7
Oct 2023: 0
Nov 2023: 0
Dec 2023: 0
Grand Total: 21

The ACLU of New Hampshire had also filed right-to-know requests with Governor Sununu’s Office and the N.H. Department of Safety in March 2023 and found that neither office could provide any data to support their claims of increased unauthorized border crossings along New Hampshire’s northern border.

This data release also comes at a time when two immigration bills are right now making their way through the legislative process, including House Bill 1054, which would make the Governor’s $1.4 million Northern Border Alliance Program lapsing without further appropriations. During a House Committee hearing on the bill this morning, the ACLU of New Hampshire presented its newly-acquired data to show the program is unnecessary. 

Another bill, Senate Bill 563, 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 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (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. Similar bills have been opposed by multiple New Hampshire law enforcement leaders because of their  potential impact on the ability of law enforcement to build community trust in their communities.

More information about this case, including court documents, is located here: 

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