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NORTHERN BORDER

A divide among Democrats on New Hampshire’s border

State Democratic lawmakers say the North Country doesn’t need more patrols. But for N.H.’s congressional delegation in Washington, border security is a major political issue

Border Patrol agents hold a news conference prior to a media tour of a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary facility near the Donna International Bridge in Donna, Texas, May 2, 2019. The U.S. Border Patrol has agreed in a legal settlement announced Friday, May 19, 2023, to not set up interior checkpoints in a northern New Hampshire town just under 100 miles from the Canadian border before Jan. 1, 2025.Eric Gay/Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — There’s a divide among New Hampshire Democrats when it comes to the state’s Northern border.

State Democratic lawmakers have said the North Country doesn’t need more patrols, but members of New Hampshire’s Democratic congressional delegation disagreed, after new data obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire foundthat border patrol officers had just 21 encounters with migrants or apprehensions of them during a 15-month period from October 2022 through December 2023.

“Well, I was pleased that the numbers were as low as they were, but obviously they are increasing,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen told WMUR. She said she is working to get more federal resources at the northern border.

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And Senator Maggie Hassan also called for more personnel and technology at New Hampshire’s northern border, in an interview on WMUR.

“We know,” said Hassan, “that as we strengthen the security on the southern border and take steps to make it more difficult for people to qualify to stay here, process deportations much more quickly, and strengthen our capacity to keep people in detention if we need to, that we will see transnational criminal organizations beginning to assess other borders, including our northern border.”

That came as Governor Chris Sununu traveled to the southern border last weekend, appearing with 12 other Republican governors to highlight border security.

At the state level, it’s Republicans who have tried to bolster border security. They created a new $1.4 million Northern Border Alliance that promised to add 10,000 patrol hours at New Hampshire’s northern border over a year and a half.

But some Democratic state lawmakers have criticized that approach.

“NH Republicans preyed on the public’s fears to manufacture an ‘immigration crisis’ at the Northern border,” said House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm, noting the importance of following the data and praising bills to lapse funding for the Northern Border Alliance (House Bill 1054) and require reporting on who was stopped as a result of the program (House Bill 1528) sponsored by representative Alissandra Murray, a Manchester Democrat.

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And Murray didn’t hold back when criticizing Hassan on social media. “Extremely disappointing to see Democrats use right-wing talking points – demonizing people who are, more often than not, legally seeking asylum,” she said about Hassan.

She was also critical of how the Biden administration has handled immigration, continuing policies first implemented under former president Trump. “Detention and deportation are not solutions but processing asylum cases in a timely manner and establishing better pathways to citizenship are,” she said.


Amanda Gokee can be reached at amanda.gokee@globe.com. Follow her @amanda_gokee.