Senate President Jeb Bradley urged Granite Staters to focus on the facts and common sense when it comes to immigration enforcement and ignore the “open borders advocates” of the ACLU-NH opposing GOP-backed policies.
The policies at issue are a ban on sanctuary policies in New Hampshire municipalities (SB 563) proposed by state Sen. Bill Gannon (R-Sandown), and using $1.4 million in state funding to pay local law enforcement in the North Country to help with border enforcement.
“When you speak to citizens from all my towns, this is their number one issue,” Gannon said during a Thursday press conference. “You saw it in polls. You saw it when I was traveling around with Nikki [Haley]; that’s what we heard at every town hall.” (Gannon was a Haley supporter in the First in the Nation GOP presidential primary.)
Gannon pointed across New Hampshire’s southern line to the Bay State as a cautionary tale.
“It’s a terrible thing. In Massachusetts, the governor is begging people, ‘Can you take someone in the house?’ In Roxbury, near where my daughter lives, she’s emptying out the rec center and turning it into beds [for illegal immigrants].” Supporters of the bill have also pointed to the case of an illegal immigrant from Haiti accused of raping a developmentally disabled person and who was released by a Massachusetts judge who ignored an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer.
Gannon’s bill bans state and local government entities from adopting sanctuary policies to prohibit or impede the enforcement of federal immigration law. He argued the law is needed because at least two towns, Hanover and Lebanon, adopted sanctuary policies in 2020. Those communities forbid police from helping enforce federal immigration law or cooperating with ICE officials.
Sen. Daryl Abbas (R-Salem) rejected claims by groups like the ACLU that enforcing immigration law is “anti-immigrant.”
“We support lawful immigration here in New Hampshire, not illegal immigration,” Abbas said. “My father was an immigrant. He came here the right way, the legal way. And that’s all that we’re asking.”
Abbas noted federal data that 736 known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) were caught crossing the U.S. border last fiscal year, and 66 percent were caught at the northern border.
“You hear the term’ terrorists coming over the border.’ Now imagine a policy that some towns or municipalities have adopted; if you have a terrorist in custody, their policy is to release that person and ignore the federal government [ICE detainer]. That’s unacceptable. We’re not going to have that here in New Hampshire.”
The senators also pushed back on the ACLU-NH argument that, while the number of illegal northern border crossings has increased by 1900 percent since 2021 since only 21 people were caught crossing the New Hampshire border, it’s a non-issue.
“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,” said ACLU-NH legal director said, Gilles Bissonette.
Nonsense, said Bradley.
“The number of encounters is nearly 7,000, up from several hundred just a couple of years ago. And that’s a problem. Add the fact that most of the people crossing the northern border are unaccompanied males and the higher percentage of people crossing the northern border on the terrorist watchlist, and that’s a problem. That’s why we’re taking action — both the $1.4 million [for the Nothern Border Alliance Task Force] and trying to create a disincentive to coming to New Hampshire.”
One reason the state is spending money on border enforcement is the Biden administration’s decision to strip Concord of about $2 million in federal funding via a program known as Operation Stone Garden. Asked how much the four Democrats in the federal delegation were doing to restore that funding, Bradley laughed.
“Gov. Sununu has made repeated calls to the federal delegation and to President Biden. They have all been rebuffed,” Bradley said. “You can’t get them to answer your questions, and they’re certainly not interacting with the governor.”
As for the ACLU, Bradley was less than complimentary.
“They’re an open border advocacy group,” Bradley told WFEA radio host Drew Cline Thursday morning. “They should be dismissed as a crank organization.”
The ACLU’s Bissonette was outside Bradley’s office during the press conference and offered to speak to reporters afterward. But when asked for a comment by an NHJournal reporter, Bissonette refused.
“I’m not talking to you,” the free speech organization’s attorney declared.