By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – State Senators Becky Whitley, a Democrat, and Republican William Gannon clashed over a bill he filed to require local law enforcement officers detain illegal immigrants here and prohibit the creation of sanctuary cities.
Whitley called Senate Bill 563 an unfunded mandate while Gannon said he considers it a safety measure.
“We are looking to take bad actors off the streets,” Gannon said.
Whitley of Hopkinton, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which was hearing the bill Thursday, said he was characterizing it as a public safety bill which is not supported by the Manchester Police Chief and others.
“Why are you not asking local law enforcement what they actually need?” Whitley asked Gannon.
Gannon, of Sandown said he has talked to police and federal agents who are concerned and noted, “We have people in Massachusetts filling up shelters and only miles from our border….people who are not properly vetted.”
The bill would be asking the locality “to just cooperate with the federal authorities.”
Whitley said New Hampshire does not have a northern border crisis.
There was data advanced since 2023 that there has been an increase in interceptions at the vast border from New York to New Hampshire but in the 70-mile area of New Hampshire, only 21 encounters have been reported.
Whitley said she is not talking about the Southern borders or even Massachusetts.
“Why are we putting our local taxpayers on the hook,” Whitley said. “We don’t do the bidding of the federal government….Why is there no funds in the bill?”
Gannon said as Americans we are spending $461 billion to feed, house and shelter immigrants. “I think you are being penny wise and pound foolish.”
“But don’t you think there is a cost,” Whitley asked, for police to have to go after these individuals.
Gannon said: “…They can detain them for 48 hours at a local jail and wait for federal authorities to pick them up.”
There are communities like Lebanon and Hanover who do have welcoming language.
Margaret Burns, executive director of the NH Municipal Association, opposed the bill for lack of clarity and said it creates interference between federal and municipal employees.
She said the bill is a mandate without funding for municipalities.
“Must local police drop everything?” she said to help the federal government?
Gilles Bissonnette of ACLU-NH said: “I read this bill as mandating local police do the federal government’s bidding.” And if you hold someone they would have their rights denied.
He noted this is a measure that has been attempted in the legislature many times in recent years but has failed for lack of support by a broad coalition, including opposition by local law enforcement.