CONWAY — Sen. Jeb Bradley is sponsoring a bill prohibiting municipalities and other entities in the state from declaring themselves sanctuaries for people in New Hampshire illegally, but Sun opinion columnist Susan Bruce maintains that the bill is fueled by xenophobia.
Senate Bill 317 is sponsored by eight New Hampshire lawmakers, including Bradley (R-Wolfeboro).
The bill would pertain to “any division, political subdivision or governmental entity within the state, such as an agency, commission, court, municipality, town, district or county, public university, public college or any grouping of the same or any privat entity reeiving any grants or operational funding from the same.”
A jurisdiction found guilty of violating the law would be subject to a series of escalating fines of up to $15,000 per day after the second violation. Any official found guilty of violating the law would be removed from office by a court.
The bill describes its rationale this way:
“It is the determination and finding of the general court that a robust enforcement of the federal immigration laws of this country, assisted to the fullest reasonable degree possible by the law enforcement and other officials of the state of New Hampshire and all governmental entities within this state, as well as all organizations receiving funds from this state or those entities, is necessary to protect our country from foreign and domestic terrorism, diminished prosperity caused by artificially low wages paid to those present in the United States in violation of our immigration laws, a disregard of the rule of law, the presence of foreign criminals, foreign persons participating in our elections, and strained local and state finances caused by a disproportionate participation of foreign welfare recipients, as well as the need to provide other governmental services to persons whose presence in the United States is not permitted under immigration laws.”
The Senate judiciary committee heard the bill on Feb. 7.
Bruce’s column published Feb. 8 on the Sun’s Op-Ed page was titled “Trickle-down hate.” In it, the New Hampshire-based columnist said the bill’s stated reasons for being, such as prevention of terrorism, are a “load of codswallop” and that the bill was also “shockingly xenophobic.”
“There are no foreign persons participating in N.H. elections,” Bruce wrote. “That is a nasty bit of xenophobia aimed at perpetuating the GOP myth of voter fraud. The Republicans need to keep that myth alive, because it’s how they’ll continue to chip away at voting rights. As for foreign welfare recipients? More bunk. Undocumented people don’t have the documents needed to receive public assistance.”
In a phone interview with the Sun on Feb. 8, Bradley addressed questions about the claims Bruce was making in her column.
“I’m a supporter of legal immigration, and I’m not supporter of illegal immigration,” Bradley said, adding that the U.S., including New Hampshire, is in the midst of a drug crisis.
“That to me speaks of the need for border security and making sure we are not a sanctuary state is part of that.”
In addition to being concerned that sanctuary cities could attract dealers who would bring in dangerous drugs like fentanyl and human traffickers to New Hampshire, Bradley said he’s seen on the news that much of those drugs are coming through the U.S.’ southern border.
According to NHPR, Durham and Portsmouth mulled becoming sanctuaries, but neither decided to do it.
Bradley said most illegal immigrants are “fine people” but that “bad apples” and criminals can be found in every group. Some of them commit high-profile crimes such as one where an American was allegedly shot by an illegal immigrant.
“The vast majority are good, hard-working people, no question about it,” said Bradley of illegal immigrants.
However, “some are MS-13 members,” said Bradley, referencing an international criminal gang.
Bradley said the states should be working with federal authorities.
He declined to comment on Bruce’s accusation about the bill being xenophobic.
“Securing our borders, trying to prevent drug trafficking, trying to prevent human trafficking, trying to have an orderly immigration system is something all nations do and the United States should do a better job of,” said Bradley.
“I don’t think that’s outside the mainstream of thought of most Americans.”
Also interviewed on Feb. 8, Bruce countered that Bradley’s bill would make state and local authorities do the federal government’s work.
“What SB 317, prohibiting sanctuary jurisdiction in New Hampshire, wants to do is turn the local and state governments, along with law enforcement, into agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency,” she said.
“That’s a lot of resources that are going to be used by towns and cities to work for ICE and I don’t think that’s a good use of money.”
The bill’s “methodology” section says, “The Department of Justice indicates this bill would require jurisdictions to comply with federal immigration laws” and the Department of Justice would have to investigate complaints.
Asked if sanctuary cities would lure illegal immigrants to New Hampshire as Bradley suggested, Bruce said that was a lame idea.
“Why would anyone want to come here? Because it’s such a nice climate?” she asked, tongue-in-cheek. “Because the housing is affordable? Because there are great jobs available and because of our ‘massive public transportation system’?”
Bruce said the bill gins up fear, prejudice, bigotry and hatred of “the other.” “When we have this really casual racist and xenophobic dialogue, it winds up with people getting hurt,” she said.
The Sun asked local police about illegal immigration.
Jackson Police Chief Chris Perley said that, in general, law enforcement agencies cooperate with each other and share information. Police authority comes from state law.
“In short, local law-enforcement agencies work under specific state statutes, with limited town, county and state jurisdiction as defined by law,” said Perley.
“As an observation, I would suspect that federal authority cannot be derived from a state statute,” Perley added, “but that would have to be provided to states by a federal statute.”