NH House defeats bill that would have prohibited 'sanctuary city' policies

By RICK GREEN

The Keene Sentinel

Published: 06-12-2023 11:32 AM

Cheshire County Sheriff Eli Rivera appeared before a N.H. House committee on April 20 to urge rejection of a bill passed by the Senate that would prohibit towns from adopting “sanctuary city” policies.

His request was fulfilled Thursday when the House voted, 203-168, to table, or remove from consideration, Senate Bill 132.

The measure would have prohibited law enforcement agencies as well as state and local governments from adopting any policy against cooperating with the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Most Democrats favored the tabling motion, and most Republicans opposed it.

Rivera testified to the House Municipal and County Government Committee that people without immigration documents need to feel safe to tell police when they have been victimized by crime.

He said SB 132, if enacted into law, could make these people reluctant to come forward for fear they would be deported.

“This bill also runs counter to the recently enshrined principle that New Hampshire does not take orders from the federal government,” Rivera said.

He was referring to a bill the N.H. Legislature passed last year, which Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law, that bars police in the state from enforcing federal firearms statutes and executive orders.

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Republican backers said SB 132 would help protect public safety at a time when illegal immigration has increased.

Rep. Deborah Aylward, R-Danbury, wrote a statement to the House in support of the legislation.

“The bill is a fair, reasonable, and common-sense measure that prevents cities and towns from providing a safe haven for non-citizen criminals, some of them highly dangerous, and prevents their release back into the community before ICE can take custody, thus potentially putting officers and law-abiding inhabitants at risk,” she said.

On Friday, N.H. Rep. Amanda Toll, D-Keene, said in an email the bill was aimed at ramping up fear of immigrants.

“As someone who was elected on a platform of reproductive and racial justice, it is in line with my values to combat this xenophobia,” she said. “Myself and my constituents believe that immigration is positive, and that immigrants enrich our communities.”

State Rep. Joe Schapiro, D-Keene, also opposed the bill.

He said in an interview Friday that similar bills have failed to pass the Legislature in previous years. They arise, he said, not from any problem in New Hampshire, but from national conservative groups pushing a narrative that demonizes immigrants.

“The bill gave the message that we have a terrible problem with immigrants in New Hampshire, that they are a danger and that we should do everything we can to discourage them from coming,” he said. “I don’t believe it.”

He said immigrants are good for the workforce, good for the culture and make New Hampshire a more humane state.

“The bill would have punished any locality or law enforcement agency from making any kind of policy, written or unwritten, that does not vociferously cooperate with federal immigration laws,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Qualey, R-Rindge, lamented that the bill was tabled.

“I think it’s important when it comes to immigration that it is done legally,” he said Friday.

“On the southern border, in particular, it’s chaotic. There’s no effective control of who’s coming over the border. And we’re seeing an increasing level of illegal border crossing on our own northern border with Canada.”

He said SB 132 would have prevented policies against local authorities cooperating with federal officials on immigration infractions involving people already under police custody.

“I thought it was a reasonable approach to a problem that’s real,” he said.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 

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