The New Hampshire legislature’s Fiscal Committee approved Gov. Chris Sununu’s request for $850,000 to send a group of National Guard volunteers to Eagle Pass, Texas, in support of that state’s border security efforts. The 6-4 vote fell along partisan lines, and it highlighted the Granite State Democrats’ strategy of opposing increased immigration enforcement heading into the 2024 elections.

Democrats who opposed the spending, like Rep. Peter Leishman (D-Peterborough) and Sen. Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua), argued securing the border is the job of the federal government and state taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to foot the bill. Sununu countered the Biden administration’s refusal to act has forced states like Texas to step up.

“The inaction of President Biden is on full display. I’ve met with the men and women of Border Patrol who want to do their job but who have been told not to enforce laws that are currently on the books,” Sununu told the committee. “Simply put, the southern border has devolved into a corridor for the cartels to funnel fentanyl and other drugs into this country, fueling an epidemic of overdoses that has absolutely ruined lives, including lives right here in the great state of New Hampshire.”

Rep. Peter Leishman (D-Peterborough) questions Gov. Chris Sununu during the Fiscal Committee meeting Feb. 16, 2024)

Sununu wants to send 15 New Hampshire Guardsmen to work with the Texas Guard and other law enforcement who are enforcing state law along the border at Eagle Pass. IndianaGeorgia, and Montana recently announced they’re sending Guardsmen as well. It’s an effort, Sununu told the committee, that’s already showing results.

“Thousands of folks were coming across a day,” Sununu said. “They’ve reduced it from thousands a day to something like 10 or 15 a day — even less.”

Customs and Border Patrol data confirm Sununu’s statement, as CBS News reported.

“In recent weeks, the flow of migrants crossing into the U.S. illegally has largely shifted away from Texas, concentrating instead in Arizona and California, where immigration officials are now recording roughly 60 percent of all unlawful border crossings, according to internal federal government figures obtained by CBS News.”

When Texas Gov. Greg Abbot met with Sununu and a group of fellow Republican governors at Eagle Pass earlier this month, he told them the state’s effort was pushing the problem onto states like California and Arizona that have embraced sanctuary policies.

“Despite the fact that Texas represents more than 60 percent of the land miles of the border, the overwhelming majority now of people crossing the border are crossing in Arizona and California, two states that are putting up no resistance to illegal immigration,” Abbott said.

At one point, Sen. Lou D’Allesandro called Abbott’s actions — using razor wire at the border and rotating buoys in the river — “inhumane.”

“Many people have died there; a few people have drowned there because of this,” D’Allesandro shot back.

Sununu had done his homework.

“In 2022, there were 159 drownings along the Texas border,” Sununu responded. “Because there was no barrier, [migrants] were incentivized to try to risk their lives to come across in the river. Since that razor wire has been put up, there’s no longer the incentive.

“There were only 55 drownings across that Texas border in 2023,” Sununu added. “If anything, those barriers have reduced drownings by 67 percent.”

Republicans on the committee went out of their way to praise Sununu’s efforts. “I can’t salute your leadership enough on this,” said Senate President Jeb Bradley, who noted Sununu had made his funding request under the state’s civil emergency statute.

“If 400 deaths per year from fentanyl since 2015 is not a civil emergency, I don’t know what is.”

Democrats, on the other hand, were echoing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joyce Craig’s messaging: Don’t send Guardsmen to the border. Instead, New Hampshire Republicans should be supporting the $118 billion package put together by the U.S. Senate that includes changes to immigration law, $60 billion in Ukraine military aid, money for Israel, and other foreign policy spending.

Sununu shot back that the problem isn’t the law; it’s a president who refuses to enforce it.

The border package Democrats referenced has already died in the U.S. Senate, and Sununu dismissed it as a “red herring.”

“The fact is that within his first 100 days in office, Joe Biden signed 16 different executive orders, proclamations, and policy memos that rescinded the remain of Mexico policy, that reinstated the catch and release policy, that completely handcuffed the ability of border patrol to do their jobs. Policy drastically changed.

“The idea that this bill is somehow a solution to a problem that was created three years ago on Jan. 20, 2021, is a fallacy. That’s all politics.”

After the vote, Sununu issued a statement thanking the committee for approving the funds.

“In the wake of federal inaction, the work of the New Hampshire National Guard on the Southern Border will have a lifesaving impact – not just in Texas, but right here at home,” Sununu said.

Democrats on the committee weren’t nearly as happy.

“For the governor and State House Republicans, with no public input, to cavalierly spend almost a million dollars to send 15 National Guardsmen down to the southern border is deeply concerning,” said D’Allesandro and Rosenwald in a joint statement.

“Sending 15 of our National Guardsmen to cover thousands of miles of the southern border will do nothing to address our drug crisis, and we are deeply disappointed that the governor and our Republican colleagues chose to move forward with this purely partisan attack on President Biden today.”