During a Thursday press conference announcing a new initiative to address the surge in illegal crossings at the nation’s northern border, Gov. Chris Sununu called out the state’s all-Democratic federal delegation for failing to act.
Sununu was joined by state Attorney General John Formella, New Hampshire Department of Safety Commissioner Robert L. Quinn, and members of law enforcement — many from the northern part of the state — to announce the new Northern Border Alliance Task Force.
“There have been more apprehensions along our northern border in just this past year than the last 10 years combined,” Sununu said. “In a meeting with local law enforcement up north, it was made very clear to us that folks on the front lines who are dealing with this day to day, we do need more targeted resources. We need to provide an all-hands-on-deck approach.”
The task force will be funded by the $1.4 million Sununu put into the last state budget to address border security issues. According to the governor’s office, the funds will be available to the State Police, Forest Rangers, and Fish and Game Department, “as well as to county and local law enforcement agencies to fund patrols within 25 air miles from the Canadian border.”
Attorney General Formella called the task force “a critical step in our public safety efforts within 25 miles of the U.S.-Canadian border.” New Hampshire is part of the Customs and Border Patrol’s Swanton Sector, which also includes Vermont and part of New York, and the sector has seen “a significant rise in apprehensions — over 6,000, and that is more than the previous 11 years combined.”
Though Sununu acknowledged the southern border crisis is far more significant, with 200,000 illegal crossings each month, he noted 85 percent of all border encounters with people on the terrorist watchlist occurred on the northern border, while just 15 percent have been at the U.S.-Mexico border.
And Sununu connected the need for action at the northern border with events in the Middle East.
“Given the threats that we’re seeing and the violence in the Middle East, the calls for a day of rage, the calls for violence here locally, that all brings us not just to a heightened awareness, but a heightened sense of urgency in terms of doing something,” Sununu told NHJournal. “The drugs are bad enough; the human and sex trafficking is absolutely awful. And now we have potential terrorist threats coming across our border as well — at an inordinate and disproportionate number even compared to the southern border.”
It doesn’t help, Sununu added, that the federal delegation is siding with the Biden administration and keeping federal funding away from the state. He specifically mentioned Operation Stone Garden, a federal grant program providing funding to state and law enforcement agencies to enhance their capabilities to support joint efforts to secure the border.
In 2018, New Hampshire received nearly $4 million from the Trump administration through Operation Stone Garden, but those funds were slashed to just $180,000 by the Biden administration in 2022 and $200,000 in 2023.
Told by a reporter that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen called Sununu “late to the game” on border security, the Republican governor pushed back hard.
“We’re the only ones doing anything,” Sununu said. “Anyone in the Biden administration or the Democrat delegation who claims that we’re ‘late to the game’ when this administration has completely ignored the deaths, the drugs, the sex trafficking, the child trafficking that has happened along the southern border; the going up and taking a nice photo or having a nice statement that we’re gonna try to do something and literally doing nothing,” Sununu said.
In particular, Sununu said, Democrats in the delegation refused to help restore the state’s border funding. “We’ve asked our federal delegation to help. They’re always willing to go up and take a photo out, but they’ve done absolutely nothing to take this issue seriously enough to put funds and resources where they belong.”
Sununu has written the delegation and the Biden administration, asking for the Trump-era funding to be returned. He told NHJournal he had gotten no response.
“I laugh at anyone trying to criticize us when we’re the only ones actually doing anything and taking the issue seriously.”
None of the state’s all-Democratic federal delegation members responded to questions about the funding Sununu is requesting or his statements. Sen. Maggie Hassan, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee, has declined repeated requests regarding the record-high illegal immigration during her time overseeing U.S. border policy.
Formella said the net result of the task force will be to “add 10,000 patrol hours near the border through June 30, 2025. This will shorten response times to calls for service in the region, increase the effectiveness of crime detection and prevention in a remote area of the state, and enhance border security efforts.”