Shaheen seeks more funding for border

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Sen. Jeanne Shaheen met with U.S. Border Patrol officials and local law enforcement in Pittsburg in September to ask about immigration enforcement challenges.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen met with U.S. Border Patrol officials and local law enforcement in Pittsburg in September to ask about immigration enforcement challenges. Courtesy of the Office of U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen

By ANNMARIE TIMMINS

New Hampshire Bulletin

Published: 11-02-2023 6:31 PM

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on Monday echoed Gov. Chris Sununu’s calls for increased border patrol funding for New Hampshire, citing an increase in migrant encounters in Vermont and New Hampshire. 

Shaheen also narrowed the number of encounters that could have happened in New Hampshire, information federal and state officials have denied local and state organizations, including the Bulletin. Requests for that information have increased since Sununu and lawmakers allotted $1.4 million this year to beef up patrols along the Canadian border, pledging to add 10,000 patrol hours in the next year. 

Federal officials have agreed to release only the number of encounters for the three-state Swanton Sector, which includes Vermont, New Hampshire, and five counties in New York. In fiscal year 2023, that number was 6,925.

In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas Tuesday, Shaheen said 1,551 of those occurred in Vermont, which has a 157-mile border with Canada, and New Hampshire, which shares 58 miles with Canada. The remaining 5,374 encounters were recorded in New York, according to information Shaheen obtained from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In fiscal year 2022, 387 of the sector’s 1,065 encounters were recorded in Vermont and New Hampshire, according to the data. In fiscal year 2021, 172 of the sector’s 365 encounters happened in those two states. Encounters indicate where in the sector law enforcement found the migrant, not where a migrant crossed the Canadian border.

Most are single adults, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In fiscal year 2023, 1,129 of the migrants encountered in New Hampshire and Vermont were single, 416 were with family members, and six were unaccompanied minors. 

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Shaheen has asked Mayorkas to provide her New Hampshire-only numbers by Nov. 15. Her letter indicates that she’s repeatedly asked for that information and has been denied. Her letter follows her September visit to Pittsburg to ask about law enforcement’s challenges, including the lack of reliable technology. 

“New Hampshire needs accurate information about what is happening within its borders to ensure border security and law enforcement needs are being met,” Shaheen wrote to Mayorkas. 

Shaheen’s office provided the Bulletin a copy of the letter following a request last week for a response to Sununu’s allegations that the delegation was “doing nothing” to secure the border. Sununu made the remark at an Oct. 20 press conference where he announced he would use the $1.4 million in state money to increase state and local patrol of the border.

“As much as Washington doesn’t want to help, as much as we asked our federal delegation to help, they’re always willing to go up and take a photo op. But they’ve done absolutely nothing to take this issue seriously enough to put funds (and) resources where they belong,” Sununu said.

In her letter, Shaheen told Mayorkas the state needs additional funding for new communication equipment, such as high-speed internet and electricity, to ensure federal, state, and local law enforcement can more effectively and reliably share information. 

Shaheen cited the lack of a radio tower and noted that the border crossing between Pittsburg and Chartierville, Canada, depends on power and telephone services from Canada and low Earth orbit satellite service for internet, a technology that is expensive and vulnerable to interference from other satellites and debris in space.

“This service lacks the reliability of wired broadband connections and can slow the work of our (Customs and Border Patrol) officers in screening and processing vehicles entering from Canada,” Shaheen wrote.

Like Sununu, Shaheen also called on Mayorkas to increase federal Operation Stonegarden funding provided to states for border security. Both noted that New Hampshire has seen that funding decrease in recent years. 

“It is clear that there is a need for increased resources in light of the current higher numbers in the Swanton Sector,” Shaheen wrote. 

Sununu has repeatedly criticized the federal government for declining his requests for additional border patrol funding and enforcement.

In March, he wrote to Mayorkas asking that he lift a nationwide hold on Immigration Customs Enforcement delegation agreements, which allow state and local law enforcement to perform specified immigration officer functions under the agency’s oversight. After being denied, Sununu followed up with the state’s congressional delegation in August requesting that they help New Hampshire secure an ICE delegation agreement.