Opinion: New Hampshire lawmakers should reject the Northern Border Alliance and cooperation with ICE

By MAGGIE FOGARTY and GRACE KINDEKE

Published: 04-05-2023 6:00 AM

Maggie Fogarty is New Hampshire program director for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). She lives in Dover. Grace Kindeke is the program coordinator for AFSC’s NH program. She is a Manchester resident.

President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met in Ottawa on March 24 and announced an agreement that will impose restrictions on migrants seeking to exercise their asylum rights at our northern border. This disappointing action comes on the heels of decades of persistent attacks on the asylum system that were exacerbated under the Trump administration and are now being codified by the Biden administration. It also further entrenches violations of both U.S. and international law.

At the same time, Governor Sununu, claiming an increase in unauthorized border crossings, has proposed spending more than $1.4 million of New Hampshire taxpayer funds annually on a Northern Border Alliance program. The program would engage local, county, and state police in the work of border patrol and immigration enforcement along our 58-mile border with Canada, and anywhere within 25 miles of that border. Even though state officials do not appear to have any data to justify this narrative and the corresponding expense, NH Commissioner of Safety Robert Quinn traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to testify that our state is part of a “northern border crisis.”

In addition, the NH Senate has already voted (twice) this session to approve an “anti-sanctuary cities” act (SB 132) which would require local police to engage in federal immigration enforcement and would erode the progress New Hampshire communities have made over many years to be welcoming and inclusive environments for all the residents of our state. SB 132 would also take away the ability of our cities and towns to decide for themselves what policies work best for them. Instead, that power will be handed over to the federal government.

Taken together, these measures will roll back decades of progress made in towns, cities, and at the state level to create safe communities, and will promote racial profiling, separate families, destabilize our communities, and further damage trust in local law enforcement. It will make a farce of the New Hampshire State Police’s “fair and impartial policing” policy which was implemented in 2019 in response to immigrant leaders’ and others’ concerns about pretextual stops targeting those who were perceived to be immigrants.

The Northern Border Alliance Program will also divert taxpayer funding that is desperately needed elsewhere. Our public schools, health and human service agencies, mental health and substance misuse treatment programs, and affordable housing funds are already woefully underfunded and at risk of being further depleted. Instead of investing in an imaginary problem at our northern border, we should be putting our money towards the very real problems that our communities face every day.

Fortunately, there is still time to change course. SB 132, having passed the NH Senate, is headed to the House where it will receive another public hearing in the coming weeks. The Northern Border Alliance funding is contained within the state budget, which will be voted on in the House on Thursday, April 6. Our representatives have a chance to do the right thing and vote no on both.

The health and well-being of New Hampshire communities should not be sacrificed to serve xenophobic and racist narratives and policies at the national, and international, level. The Biden and Trudeau administrations are taking the wrong approach to the northern border. New Hampshire people must protect the progress we have made to welcome immigrants and build healthy local communities.

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