Gov. Chris Sununu has joined 25 other governors to create the American Governors’ Border Strike Force, a multi-state partnership designed to disrupt and dismantle the transnational criminal organizations taking advantage of the open border with Mexico.
The announcement came just days after Customs and Border Patrol announced 221,303 illegal border crossings in March, the highest number since President Joe Biden took office. That broke a monthly record set in March 2000, when the Border Patrol detained 220,063 illegal crossers.
“The crisis at the southern border affects all 50 states,” said Sununu. “The drugs that flow into New Hampshire are coming directly from the southern border, and this strike force will increase collaboration and information-sharing between the states, helping keep our citizens safe.”
In the letter announcing the creation of the strike force, Sununu and his fellow governors point the finger of blame directly at Biden.
“Due to President Biden’s disastrous border policies, dangerous transnational criminal organizations continue flooding our communities with drugs while reaping billions of dollars from human smuggling and causing a record-breaking number of apprehensions at the Southern Border,” the letter reads.
The governors also signed a compact committing to “the coordination of information sharing, training of law enforcement personnel, and review of existing laws to ensure that the crimes of drug trafficking, human trafficking, and border-related criminal offenses are investigated and punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
It also requires each state to “review individual state criminal justice statistics and information to determine those crimes that can be traced to the Southern Border,” a policy likely to be unpopular with immigration advocates.
The agreement does not, however, commit New Hampshire to deploy law enforcement officers to the border or to any other state.
In 2018, Sununu was one of a handful of governors who announced they would not send National Guardsmen to the southern border to enforce President Donald Trump’s so-called “family separation” policy. Trump implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy that resulted in the criminal prosecution of all adult illegal immigrants for unlawful entry, including those with children. While those adults were held in federal criminal facilities, their children were sent to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Opponents of the policy accused the Trump administration of “ripping young children from the arms of their parents.” Supporters noted it is standard procedure in U.S. law enforcement for any adult jailed for any crime who did not have a legal guardian for their minor child. The Trump policy was in place for just over a month.
“The New Hampshire National Guard has not been contacted, and I will not send our New Hampshire troops to the southern border to separate families,” Sununu said at the time.
The politics of Sununu’s decision to put New Hampshire in the Governor’s Border Strike Force are complicated by the shifting policy stances of Granite State Democrats facing tough election battles in the fall. After years of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants and opposing Trump’s wall, both Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Sununu have recently announced their support for more border enforcement. They both also support using Title 42 to turn away migrants seeking asylum without a hearing. Nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants have been turned away under the policy since Trump implemented it at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Neither Hassan nor Pappas would comment on Sununu’s decision to bring New Hampshire into the strike force.
While Sununu was the only northeastern governor to sign onto the compact — Republicans Charlie Baker (Mass.) and Phil Scott (Vt.) were a “no”– Maryland moderate Gov. Larry Hogan is on board. Sununu’s decision also brings him together with border hawks like Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem.
While their states and ideologies within the GOP are far apart, all five of these governors are rumored to be considering a White House bid in 2024.