President Donald Trump came to Manchester, NH in March and gave a speech about his administration’s commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic that killed 483 people in New Hampshire last year alone. Most of the headlines focused on Trump’s call for a federal death penalty for drug dealers, but he also received attention for this claim:
“According to a recent Dartmouth study, the sanctuary city of Lawrence, Massachusetts, is one of the primary sources of fentanyl in six New Hampshire counties…Every day, sanctuary cities release dangerous individuals, drug dealers, traffickers, gang members back into our communities. They’re protected by these cities,” Trump said.
According to that Dartmouth College study, more than half of opioid users they interviewed said they got their drugs in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The president’s comments evoked this response from Lawrence, MA Mayor Dan Rivera:
“Shame on the president. He’s trafficking in pain and divisiveness, creating boogiemen where we need solutions.”
On Wednesday, the US Attorney for New Hampshire announced the indictment of 20 of those “boogiemen” in what is believed to be the largest fentanyl-related drug sweep in New Hampshire history. A total of 45 people were charged in the bust of a fentanyl trafficking ring led by brothers Sergio Martinez and Raulin Martinez of Lawrence, Mass. According to authorities, the brothers were aware most of the drugs were going to New Hampshire.
When asked by a reporter if Wednesday’s bust confirmed claims by President Trump, Gov. Chris Sununu and others that Lawrence is the source of the vast majority of fentanyl coming into the Granite State, U.S. Attorney Scott Murray said:
“I can tell you that I spent seven years as an elected district attorney in New Hampshire prior to assuming this office, and I would say that a very large percentage of our cases came from that location. And I think it is general knowledge in law enforcement that it is in fact the location where a lot of these drugs originate.”
The sweep involved more than 100 agents from federal, state and local law enforcement, but it did not include any officers from the Lawrence Police Department—which operates under strict sanctuary-city guidelines.
As Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies told Congress in testimony on the impact of sanctuary city policies:
The city of Lawrence, Mass., is a regional fentanyl distribution hub for the Sinaloa cartel, where the fentanyl distribution is handled primarily by illegal aliens from the Dominican Republic. Yet the city council…has maintained a sanctuary ordinance that forbids local police from cooperating with ICE in any way. It says:
[N]o officer or employee of a City of Lawrence law enforcement agency shall arrest or detain an individual solely on the basis of an immigration [detainer]. This includes extending length of custody by any amount of time once an individual is released from local custody. … No officer or employee of a City of Lawrence law enforcement agency shall respond to any ICE notification request seeking information about an individual’s incarceration status, length of detention, home address, work address, personal information, hearing information, or pending release. … no officer or employee of a City of Lawrence law enforcement agency shall allow ICE agents access to or use of facilities, records/databases, booking lists, or individuals in custody either in person or via telephone or video conference.”12
The practical result of such policies is the release of deportable criminal aliens who are involved in the trafficking of narcotics back to the streets of the communities, where they are likely to resume their criminal activities, instead of back to their home countries.
Will this historic drug bust, along the data from Darthmouth and law enforcement, cause advocates for sanctuary-city policies to re-consider their position? Given the history of the politics surrounding this debate, that appears unlikely.