By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — Proposed legislation would require law enforcement to keep tabs on their activity near the New Hampshire and Canadian border.
House Bill 1528, which had a public hearing Friday before the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, would require the Northern Border Alliance Program to “include the number of persons arrested, persons cited, and persons subjected to a field stop or warning. The aggregate data shall also include an analysis of the percentage of the race and ethnicity of persons in each of the categories.”
The prime sponsor of the bill, Rep. Alissandra Murray, D-Manchester, said the program Gov. Chris Sununu sought with a $1.4 million appropriation, presented no data at the time to back up the need for the program.
The bill seeks information on the activities of local and state police, fish and game officers and border patrol officers interacting with people crossing the border legal and illegal and how the money is spent.
The data should also indicate if there is a need for the program, she said.
Since she proposed the bill, Murray said, she learned the State Police have developed a protocol for collecting data under the Alliance and her bill would just add to what needs to be collected.
Last year, Sununu requested the $1.4 million be included in the state’s fiscal 2025-2026 operating budget, but the House voted almost two-to-one to take the money out, but the Senate included it in its budget plan which was approved by the House.
Devon Chaffee, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union-NH, supported the bill, noting at the time the money was approved last year there was no data on illegal crossings along New Hampshire’s border with Canada.
The only information lawmakers had was a statement from the governor and some numbers from the Swanton Sector which also includes Vermont and a large part of the New York border, she said.
“There was no data specific to New Hampshire,” Chaffee said, and the border patrol refused to release any specific data.
“It’s baffling how you ask for over a million dollars to address a specific problem and there is no data available,” Chaffee said.
Her organization filed a freedom of information request and two weeks ago finally received the information that in 15 months, there were 21 apprehensions or encounters with 14 of those in two incidents, she said.
The data shows no significant increase or any real problem at all for the border crossing into New Hampshire, Chaffee said.
She said the governor had a confusing explanation that if you spend more money you will find more unauthorized people trying to cross the border, noting the State Police spent only 30 percent of the federal money they received for border protection.
“This is a classic case of a solution in search of a problem,” Chaffee said. You have a right to the data, “you have the right to know how the money is being spent and if it is justified.”
The committee did not make an immediate recommendation on the bill.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Garry has been a reporter in New Hampshire for 40 years.