inside sources print logo
Get up to date New Hampshire news in your inbox

In Manchester and Nashua, Fentanyl Death Toll Keeps Rising

Nashua and Manchester continue chasing a grim record as opioid-related overdose deaths continue to rise in the two cities. 

According to data released Thursday by ambulance company American Medical Response, there were 77 suspected opioid overdoses in Nashua and Manchester during September 2022 bringing the combined total for this year to 701.

And they warn there is no end in sight.

“Preliminary data show Nashua has experienced 33 suspected opioid-related deaths through September. That is 3 more deaths than during all of 2021,” said Chris Stawasz, Northeast Regional Director of Government Affairs for AMR. “Nashua remains on pace to have the highest number of suspected deaths from opioids in one year since the opioid epidemic began in 2015. Manchester is also still on pace to have the highest number of suspected opioid-related deaths in a one-year period since 2017.”

This year’s number of opioid-related overdose deaths is already close to last year’s totals. Manchester had more than 500 suspected overdoses in 2021, 30 percent more than the previous year, and Nashua had 250 suspected overdoses in 2021, which was 29 percent more than in 2020.

Stawasz said opioids like Fentanyl are not the only thing first responders are worried about. The growing prevalence of methamphetamines on New Hampshire streets is concerning, he said.

“Methamphetamine, which is not currently tracked and is not included in this report, continues to be seen mixed with opioids. Meth is a particularly dangerous drug for both users and first responders as it can cause extreme excited delirium and alarmingly unpredictable behavior in users,” Stawasz said.

Meth use has been linked to violent incidents in recent years, with several fatal police shootings involving people who were heavy meth users coming into conflict with police.

Both methamphetamine and fentanyl are coming over the Mexican border and making their way into New Hampshire, according to law enforcement. Mexican drug cartels are getting the necessary chemicals to make the deadly drugs from Chinese triads. The partnership extends to billions of dollars being laundered by the triads for the cartels, with the knowledge of China’s government.

The drugs continue to stream over the border, which has seen record numbers of people illegally crossing. The Border Patrol reports it apprehended 2 million people this year, the largest number of illegal crossings in history. That blows past last year’s figure of 1.7 million people coming over the border illegally, which was a record number at the time.

Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan received testimony on the need to secure the border from national law enforcement officials during a hearing earlier this year. Jon DeLena, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of the New England Field Division for the DEA, testified regarding the danger posed by the cartels.

“The model of the drug cartels right now is simple. Relentless expansion and addiction. They simply don’t care if Americans die. They only want to reach more Americans in unprecedented ways. This is a moment in time, our moment where we have to do everything we can to reverse this deadly trend,” DeLena said.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect the testimony offered by Mr. DeLena.

Hassan Dodges Immigration Activists During Biden Visit

Sen. Maggie Hassan was supposed to be talking up infrastructure spending during President Joe Biden’s visit Tuesday. But she spent much of her day dodging protests from Granite State progressives and members of the local Latino community. They are upset by Hassan’s reversal on immigration policy and a video she released standing in front of Trump’s border wall calling for more “physical barriers.”

Protesters gathered or posted signs at various spots along Hassan’s route in Portsmouth as she traveled with the president. “Hassan + Pappas, NH Welcomes Immigrants,” one sign read. One of the organizers is Rep. Maria Perez (D-Milford), who resigned from the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s Latino Caucus last week in protest of Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) announcing their support for Title 42. That is the emergency authorization used to turn away more than one million undocumented migrants at the border last year.

“No cages, no walls! @SenatorHassan and @ChrisPappasNH We need a real plan to increase capacity and resources to manage the needs of migrants seeking entry at the border, not a continuation of racist, misguided and inhumane policies,” Perez tweeted from the protest.

 

Progressives who have worked for Hassan in the past have denounced her new, more pro-enforcement policy positions on immigration.

Perez said Tuesday afternoon she has not been able to speak to Hassan about her recent call for more barriers on the border, and other right-leaning policies the senator has adopted in a tough election year.

“The response that I got from her office is that she’s too busy,” Perez said.

Hassan tried using her trip to the southern border to shoot campaign videos in which she unconvincingly promised to get tough and push for more physical barriers. Hassan repeatedly voted against funding a border wall when Donald Trump was president — the same wall she used as a prop in her video, with barbed wire hanging over her head.

Granite State immigration activists were irate. “That was the last kick in the butt for the immigrant community, and all of us as Latinos,” said Eva Castillo, executive director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees. Some progressives called on Hassan to apologize.

Hassan has refused. She also refused to respond to requests for comment from NHJournal.

Perez said immigrant advocates want to express their views to her in person, but Hassan is avoiding them. She plans to keep up the pressure until Hassan responds in some way.

“I’m not taking a no from her office anymore. A lot of people in the community have been so disappointed. We’re just asking for time to talk to her and she’s refusing to meet with us. She’s too busy to meet with us, but she’s not too busy to go to the border,” Perez said.

Clifton West, Jr., a founder of Black Lives Matter’s Seacoast chapter, also protested the two Democrats’ actions, urging them via Twitter to “support immigrant communities and stop hijacking COVID relief funds to support a Trump policy, Title 42. New Hampshire residents stand in solidarity with migrants’ rights to seek asylum.”

The Title 42 issue puts Hassan and Pappas at odds with Biden. Both members of Congress back legislation to block the administration’s plan to end the policy. The progressive action group Rights and Democracy is demanding the two New Hampshire lawmakers “remove their co-sponsorship from bills that would indefinitely block asylum access for immigrants at the U.S. border, as President Biden finally moves to end harmful, racist Title 42.”

Perez said members of the Latino community are also being ignored by Pappas and his team as well.

“I’m a Democrat. But with everything going on these days, I’m embarrassed to call myself a Democrat,” she said.

Hispanic Leaders Resign From NH Dem Latino Caucus Over Hassan, Pappas Immigration Stance

Sen. Maggie Hassan may have thought a photoshoot in front of Trump’s border wall was smart politics. But for members of the New Hampshire Democratic Latino Caucus, it was the last straw.

“That was the last kick in the butt for the immigrant community, and all of us as Latinos,” said Eva Castillo.

Castillo is executive director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees and, until recently, a high-profile member of the New Hampshire Democratic Latino Caucus. But on Tuesday she and several of her fellow leaders in the Latino community sent the caucus a joint letter of resignation from the caucus to state party chair Ray Buckley over the behavior of Hassan and fellow Democrat incumbent Rep. Chris Pappas.

“For many years, we have struggled, unsuccessfully, to have our voices heard; this has never been made clearer than by the recent comments and position taken by Sen. Maggie Hassan and Congressman Chris Pappas concerning immigration,” they wrote. “We take from these signals that our community does not matter, and that immigration and humanitarian steps are only welcome when white refugees are in need; when black and brown asylum seekers come needing shelter, we start to demand more ‘border security.’

“The dangerous rhetoric and its accompanying attitude is something we expect from the New Hampshire Republican Party and their fear-mongering slew of candidates, but when one of our Democratic leaders acts in the same way, we must draw a line,” they added.

The letter was signed by Castillo, caucus vice-chair Sebastian Fuentes, delegate at large Marcus Ponce de Leon, and state Rep. Maria Perez (D-Milford).

“It’s pretty pathetic they are using immigrants as tokens,” Castillo told NHJournal.

Their anger is in response to the two Democrats’ support for keeping Title 42 authority in place at the border. That authority, put in place by the Trump administration when the COVID-19 pandemic began, has been used to turn away some 2 million would-be border crossers. Liberals and progressives say they want to end it. Pappas and Hassan say they want to keep it.

And that is not all. Both Democrats are talking up border security as a priority. Despite having repeatedly voted against funding a border wall, Hassan is now touting her support for “physical barriers” in a video on Twitter.

Castillo said Hassan’s video was an example of shameless pandering, as was her call for more “barriers” at the border.

“What, are you going to put up hedges?” she asked.

On Jack Heath’s radio show Wednesday morning, Pappas repeated his support for keeping Title 42 in place. “I think the administration has to be mindful of what their plan is to make sure the border is safe.”

Castillo said Pappas and Hassan’s move to the right on immigration makes no sense. No Republican was going to vote for either candidate, she said, and their maneuvers are now alienating the progressive voters they need.

“They’re not getting any votes from Republicans,” Castillo said.

She was not the only Granite State progressive upset by their behavior.

Rep. David Meuse (D-Portsmouth) was shocked by Hassan’s “Trump Wall” video and he called on the senator to apologize.

“106 secs of posturing and ingratiation to an audience unlikely to vote for her has left Sen. Maggie Hassan with thousands of bridges to repair not only to Latinos—but to every NH ally who has supported compassionate immigration reform. Make this right @SenatorHassan,” he tweeted.

Outspoken progressive firebrand state Rep. Sherry Frost (D-Dover) joined him.

“I stand in complete solidarity with my immigrant brothers, sisters, & others. I know this isn’t a new (gross) position for @SenatorHassan but I hoped she could change. I have no idea why @ChrisPappasNH is following along.”

Hassan and Pappas’ shift to the right on the border makes little sense to Republicans, either.

“Pretending to support a wall at our southern border won’t prevent the political walls from caving in on Maggie Hassan,” NRSC chair Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told NHJournal. “As someone who voted with Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer three times to defund wall construction last year, Maggie Hassan’s 2021 actions speak louder to New Hampshirite voters than any 2022 words or border visits will. That’s why Granite Staters will send a Republican to the U.S. Senate to replace her.”

A New Hampshire GOP strategist who spoke to NH Journal on background pointed out the reaction from progressives was not merely grousing. It was planned.

“The thing that really stuck out to me wasn’t the fact that the letter went out, it was the coordination and public anger afterward. People like David Meuse, Sherry Frost, and Wendy Thomas — well-known officials in New Hampshire Democrat circles — took to Twitter and publicly excoriated Hassan and Pappas for the decision, choosing to stand with the Latino Caucus instead of their vulnerable incumbent federal delegation.

“When Hassan and Pappas need these folks’ support down the line, you can bet they won’t answer the phone,” the strategist said.

Representatives for Pappas and Hassan did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. So far, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley is silent as well.

Drugs From Mexico, Deaths in Manchester: NH’s Real Border Crisis

New Hampshire law enforcement is dealing with the one-two punch of fentanyl and methamphetamine, as opioid deaths continue to surge and methamphetamine fuels deadly violence. 

And the source of those drugs is 2,400 miles away at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Last month, Manchester and Nashua reported a combined 95 opioid-related overdoses, a 13 percent increase from December. Nine deaths are believed to be linked to these overdoses.

The figures from last year show a sharp rise in opioid overdoses and deaths, after an initial dip due to the 2020 COVID-19 related lockdowns.

November overdose totals in Manchester and Nashua were up 110 percent from the same time in 2020, according to American Medical Response regional director Chris Stawasz.

“I know there are a lot of competing priorities with COVID-19 and the variants that are out there, but this is, unfortunately, if not more deadly, as deadly as the COVID-19 crisis is,” Stawasz told WMUR.

Manchester had more than 500 suspected overdoses in 2021, 30 percent more than the previous, and Nashua had 250 suspected overdoses in 2021, which was 29 percent more than 2020.

Opioid fatalities are typically linked to fentanyl, the powerful synthetic drug being manufactured by Chinese syndicates and distributed by Mexican drug cartels. Those cartels continue to find ways to smuggle the drugs over the border, flooding American streets.

According to The Washington Post, The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s Laredo field office alone seized 588 pounds of fentanyl during the 2021 fiscal year, an eleven-fold increase over the 50 pounds it snared in 2020.

United States Attorney for New Hampshire John Farley said that while fentanyl is still the state’s main drug problem, methamphetamine is making gains among Granite Staters as well. It is now the second most common drug on the streets. Again, methamphetamine is a product from the cartels, he said.

“What we’ve seen is a real growth in the Mexican cartels manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine,” Farley said. “They are able to produce a cheap and very pure form of methamphetamine, what people call crystal meth, and they are very aggressive in distributing that highly addictive drug.”

One main method of distributing those drugs is dark web marketplaces. According to The New York Times, dark web sites are accounting for more and more of the fentanyl traffic in the country.

Farley said local and federal law enforcement are seeing come up from the border, and then getting shipped to the east coast. Many times, dealers are using the dark web to buy and sell large quantities of the drugs. 

“Almost anyone who wants to find a connection can find a connection,” Farley said.

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella has said methamphetamine keeps popping up in investigations involving people shot by police officers. The last five complete investigations into fatal police shootings have found people with methamphetamine in their system who turned violent in confrontations with police, resulting in their deaths.

“Methamphetamine and fentanyl distribution continue to plague New Hampshire. As the Attorney General, I will continue to partner with federal and local law enforcement agencies to implement the most effective strategies to disrupt the flow of illegal drugs into New Hampshire,” Formella said in a statement. “It is only by this collaborative effort that law enforcement can marshal assets to protect not only our citizens but the  officers who work tirelessly to protect our state.”

Last year, Claremont’s Jeffry Ely, 40, was shot and killed during an armed standoff with New Hampshire State Police troopers. Ely had been suffering greater mental health problems as he increased his drug use, including methamphetamine, according to the shooting investigation. 

David Donovan, 35, was shot and killed by police in Meredith in November 2020 when he charged at police, armed with a knife and covered in blood from having just stabbed his mother’s boyfriend, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s report. Donovan’s methamphetamine use caused him to become violent, paranoid, and delusional in the months leading up to his fatal encounter with Meredith police.

In October of 2020, Ethan Freeman, 37, of Thornton, was shot and killed by Thornton Police Officer Matthew Yao when a naked and bleeding Freeman charged Yao during a confrontation. Freemen had a history of methamphetamine and other drug abuse, as well as a significant history of mental health issues.

In December 2020, Mark Clermont, a paranoid felon who was known to carry an assault-style rifle and wear a ballistic vest while hunting for alien spacecraft, was shot and killed by New Hampshire State Police Trooper Matthew Merrill during a gun battle Clermont had started. Clermont was known to use methamphetamines. Merrill suffered gunshot wounds during the incident. He survived.

Those drugs ending up in the hands of armed dealers and users are a real concern of law enforcement, Farley said.

“We’re seeing a lot more drug dealers who are armed,” he said. “When a methamphetamine dealer is armed, or is using, the public safety risk is substantial. The impacts that methamphetamine has on thought processes can really create a public safety risk.”

Is Homeland Security Sending Migrants from Texas Border to NH? Hassan Won’t Say

Senator Maggie Hassan has no comment on reports that the Department of Homeland Security — which she oversees as a member of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee — is considering a plan to send some of the migrants pouring across the southern border up to Vermont and New Hampshire.

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, “more than 1.472 million aliens have been apprehended entering illegally at the Southwest border in just FY 2021.” That’s equal to the entire population of New Hampshire. U.S. Border Patrol reported “nearly 200,000 encounters with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in July, the highest monthly total in more than two decades.”

Now, the Border Patrol is reportedly considering sending some of those migrants to the “Swanton Sector,” which includes all of Vermont, part of New York,  and Coos, Grafton and Carroll counties in New Hampshire.

“Federal immigration agencies are preparing contingency plans for a chaotic fall and winter that include looking to states thousands of miles away for assistance,” the Washington Free Beacon reports, based on a memo they’ve obtained. “DHS is husbanding resources for the ‘unconfirmed’ transfer of migrants to [the Swanton Sector] and awaiting a response from Border Patrol about the number of additional processing machines required,” they report.

“A spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection declined to address the [Swanton Sector] relocation plans, saying the department does not comment on leaked information.”

A spokesperson for Vermont’s Gov. Phil Scott (R) told a reporter last week the administration was “unaware” of any such plans.

Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told the Vermont Daily Chronicle: “U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continually evaluates possible contingency plans and adjusts its operations as circumstances dictate, but currently there are no plans to transfer migrants from the Southwest border to the Northern or Coastal borders.”

But nothing is stopping the Border Patrol from locating migrants here — certainly not Sen. Hassan.

And even if DHS doesn’t send would-be illegal immigrants to the area, some are making their way here, anyway. Just last week, Border Patrol agents “apprehended 21 people encountered in multiple events after they illegally entered the U.S. near the towns of Alburgh, Franklin, Richford & West Berkshire,” the Swanton Sector Border Patrol tweeted. “They were citizens of Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico & Canada.”

More significant, however, is the lack of information from Sen. Hassan, who will not answer questions about the border or DHS policy from NHJournal. She hasn’t made any public comment or issued a statement on the report, either.

Meanwhile, former Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott revealed last week the Biden administration is paying contractors not to build a wall on the southern U.S. border. “For a while, it was almost $5 million a day between DOD and DHS.” Hassan voted against funding a border wall in 2017.

In a recent NHJournal poll,  New Hampshire Republicans picked the border security issue as their top concern. At the same time, Biden is getting poor marks across the political spectrum for his handling of the border crisis. Just 25 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s immigration policy, while 67 percent disapprove, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.

As for the situation at the Mexican border, just 23 percent approve, while 67 percent disapprove. Only half of Biden’s fellow Democrats approve of his handling of the border situation.

On Border “Crisis” Question, Voters Side With Trump Over Democrats

On Tuesday night, Donald Trump took his battle for border wall funding to primetime TV, but Democrats refused to even acknowledge there was a border “crisis” to battle over.  In fact, listening to the three speakers, it was hard to tell they were discussing the same topic.

President Trump addressed the issue of the ongoing government shutdown briefly, but spent most of his time talking about the surge of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers crossing the borders, as well as the negative impacts of illegal immigration.

“In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings,” the president said. “Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders.

“In California, an Air Force veteran was raped, murdered and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history. In Georgia, an illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing, beheading and dismembering his neighbor. In Maryland, MS-13 gang members who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors were arrested and charged last year after viciously stabbing and beating a 16-year-old girl.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, on the other hand, made vague references to Democrats supporting border security while opposing what Schumer called an “ineffective, unnecessary border wall” and talking mostly about government workers and their families hurt by the shutdown.

“The fact is: President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety and well-being of the American people and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation – many of them veterans,” Speaker Pelosi said.

“There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference. Federal workers are about to miss a paycheck. Some families can’t get a mortgage to buy a new home. Farmers and small businesses won’t get loans they desperately need,” added Sen. Schumer.

Liberal groups like the League of Women Voters joined in: “The real threat to the safety and security of Americans is the loss of paychecks for hundreds of thousands of hard-working public servants during the ongoing shutdown,” they said in a statement.

So who carried the day? “Judging by the comments from both sides, we’re no closer to ending this impasse,” Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies told InsideSources. Vaughan, who supports stricter immigration enforcement, said that Trump “did a good job promoting border security, but I wish he’d spent more time explaining why there’s a crisis.”

“As long as we have policies that allow people who make asylum claims–claims they know are almost certain to be rejected–to be released into the country if they have a child with them, we’re encouraging desperate people to risk the lives of children. That’s the ‘immoral’ part  that Speaker Pelosi won’t fix,” Vaughan said.

President Trump echoed that sentiment in what was probably the most memorable line of the evening:

“Some have suggested a barrier is immoral. Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is for the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.”

While President Trump and the Democrats mostly talked past each other, there was one clear area of disagreement. President Trump insists that there is, in fact, a “crisis” at the southern border, while both Pelosi and Schumer referred to it as Trump’s “manufactured crisis.”  Who’s right?

According to the Washington Post, “2,000 unauthorized migrants who are being taken into federal custody each day” at the Mexico border.  Another anti-Trump outlet, Vox.com says: “More families crossed the US-Mexico border without papers in November 2018 than in any month since the Department of Homeland Security started tracking family apprehensions separately.”

But the final judgment belongs to the voters, and according to a Morning Consult poll released the day of the speech, they are with President Trump on the “crisis” question.  The poll found that 42 percent describe the current situation as a “crisis” and 37 percent say it’s “not a crisis but a problem,” while just 12 percent agree with the Democrats that there’s no problem at all.

“This is why Trump may have won the night. Democrats are still denying there’s a problem. Americans can see people rushing the border and climbing the fences, they see the coverage of the overcrowded border facilities. Of course there’s a problem–a major one,” Vaughan said.