Sununu asks Biden to let state assist at northern border

Mar. 14—CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu urged the Biden administration Tuesday to delegate authority and allow state and local police to assist in arresting individuals illegally entering the U.S. through the Canadian border.

The recent federal decision to deploy 25 additional border patrol agents to the Swanton (Vermont) sector is a "good first step," but Sununu said the problem requires a greater response.

A migrant from Mexico died on Feb. 19 in the Swanton sector while trying to enter the country from Canada, he said.

"Time is of the essence — New Hampshire is ready to act quickly to respond to this process. We strongly urge you to reconsider your current policy," Sununu wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Sununu said he spoke with the Homeland Security chief last weekend.

On Feb. 17, Sununu said the state formally asked the federal government to let New Hampshire assist with the effort without additional federal money.

Regional Immigration, Customs and Enforcement officers told state officials, however, that the Biden administration had placed a hold on any new delegation agreements, Sununu said.

"Due to the cold weather, rough terrain and ill-equipped individuals, your agents have often been required to administer emergency medical aid to those individuals who have crossed the border illegally," Sununu wrote.

Last week Safety Commissioner Robert Quinn said illegal crossings at the Canadian border have gone up 800% compared with a year ago.

From last October through the end of January, there were more than 1,500 illegal crossings, Quinn said.

A Federal Emergency Management Agency grant supports Operation Stone Garden, a different program that pays to support local and state patrols and to buy all-terrain vehicles.

The state's grant of $300,000 in 2021 fell to $180,000 last year, Quinn said.

In his proposed budget, Sununu has called for using $1.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act federal grants to create a Northern Border Alliance Program.

The plan would permit police acting within 25 miles of the Canadian border to also have the same arrest powers that forest rangers or game wardens have on state forested lands.

"New Hampshire will not be waiting idly by while your department decides whether or not to take action along the northern border," Sununu said.

Advocates for immigrants were critical of Sununu's proposal during a public hearing on the budget Monday.