The New Hampshire Senate voted 13-10 to ban Granite State communities from becoming “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to enforce immigration law. The bill passed over the unanimous opposition of Democratic senators who called the legislation “a threat to democracy.”
Senate Democrats also insisted claims of an illegal immigration surge impacting the state are a “myth.” They denied any crime problem in New Hampshire related to lax immigration enforcement.
SB 132 prohibits Granite State cities and towns from adopting sanctuary policies, defined as policies that limit or prohibit cooperation with federal agencies from verifying or reporting the immigration status of any alien or grant illegal aliens “the right to lawful presence within the boundaries of this state in violation of federal law.”
“It is unconscionable that, at a time when we are seeing drugs and victims of human trafficking coming across our Northern border, Democrats would continue to support policies that jeopardize the safety and well-being of our New Hampshire families,” said Sen. Daryl Abbas (R-Salem), an author of the legislation.
Senate Democrats disagreed, rejecting “the inflammatory myth that immigrants are streaming across our northern border,” as Sen. Becky Whitley (Hopkinton) put it Thursday.
Whitley serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee and said she “hasn’t heard one chief of police, or one member of the state police say we have a problem with illegal immigration” in New Hampshire. She asked Senate Democratic Caucus leader Sen. Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) if, in her conversations with law enforcement, she had heard “there is any criminal activity that is particularly troubling and a trend from those so-called illegal immigrants?”
No, Soucy said. “Not specific to illegal immigrants. There is criminal activity in Manchester, and there is concern about drugs coming in, but not about any specific group of people.”
The Biden administration reports illegal crossings at the northern border have soared 846 percent this fiscal year alone. More than half have occurred in the Border Patrol’s Swanton Section, which includes New Hampshire.
The Granite State is also suffering a surge in opioid deaths, nearly all from fentanyl manufactured in Mexico and smuggled into the U.S. Manchester and Nashua experienced a record-high number of opioid-related overdose deaths last year, according to Chris Stawasz with American Medical Response. Manchester is on track to exceed that number in 2023.
“We are seeing the crisis every day at our Southern border with violent criminals taking advantage of non-existent border security to bring Fentanyl into our cities and towns across the country, ripping apart our families with the cruel reality of drug overdoses,” said Senate Majority Leader Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry).
Other Democrats denounced the anti-sanctuary city bill as an act of hate.
Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka (D-Portsmouth) said she was “deeply disappointed” by Republican efforts to pass the sanctuary city ban. “This bill shows New Hampshire is not immune to the rise in hate speech.”
Perkins-Kwoka added she saw someone from the Federation for American Immigration Reform in one hearing, a group she claimed “has ties to the rhetoric of white supremacy.”
“The reality is that SB 132 is dangerous to our country; it’s dangerous to our democracy. It forces communities to target certain groups of people,” Perkins-Kwoka said.
Abbas, the son of an Italian Catholic mother and Egyptian Muslim father, mocked the notion that his legislation was inspired by “white supremacy.”
“I’ve said it before, and I’ve said it again: White supremacy — not a huge fan,” Abbas said. “I wrote this bill. Not some white supremacist group. Me.
“My father immigrated to this country the lawful way, the legal way. We’re not targeting all immigrants. That’s a mischaracterization.”
We do not want criminals crossing our border,” Abbas added, “and this bill ensures that our state will not be putting out the welcome mat for their illegal activity.”