Gov. Chris Sununu is asking the Biden Administration to step up its patrol of New Hampshire’s 51-mile border with Canada or he will do it with a $1.4 million budget priority he has proposed to use state and local law enforcement.
It comes during a steep rise in illegal crossing attempts in recent months and after a Mexican man died on the U.S. border near Derby, Vt. on Feb. 19 in a failed attempt to reach the United States.
Sununu wrote to the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, Monday following a conversation Sununu said the two had over the past weekend to address the “alarming rise” in illegal border crossings and a need to step up efforts.
The state is part of the 295-mile Swanton Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol including all of New Hampshire’s international border with Canada, Vermont’s, and part of New York’s border.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol statistics show that illegal crossings are up significantly in the period of October through January. They have gone from 160 to 1,513 in the same time period from the previous year.
Sununu said in his letter, https://www.governor.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt336/files/inline-documents/sonh/20230313123049.pdf that past efforts to get the feds to partner with the local patrol efforts have been rebuffed. He claims the Biden Administration is cutting funding at a time when the border with New Hampshire needs it the most.
“I hope you will partner with the state of New Hampshire to make this a reality,” Sununu wrote.
If not, he said he has a line item in his proposed budget which would allocate $1.4 million to create a Northern Border Alliance made up of state and local officials who know the rugged, wooded, and in winter months potentially deadly terrain with cold and deep snow.
Sununu told reporters last week in Concord that immigrants are legally entering Canada and making their way to the northern border as well as in much higher numbers, the south in an attempt to get into the United States.
He told the story of a Mexican man dying attempting to cross the border on Feb. 19.
An autopsy on the man is being handled in Vermont but officials said the death is not suspicious.
A March 3 article by the CBC in Canada indicated that Jose Leos Cervantes, 45, of Aguascalientes, Mexico struggled to pay bills in the Toronto area where he had been living with his family for less than a year and attempted to get to the United States.
He was among three men seen attempting to cross the border between Quebec and Vermont in deep snow when they encountered border patrol agents. Two of the men ran back toward Canada and Cervantes collapsed.
He was taken to a Vermont hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Leos Cervantes had been struggling to make a living in the Ontario capital when he decided to try his luck in the U.S., his wife said in an interview with a Mexican radio station that was picked up by the CBC. The family moved to Toronto in June, hoping to get better pay and better work conditions. But she said Leos Cervantes lost his job two months ago and struggled to find another that could pay for their rent over the winter months. The couple has three children.
The death occurred less than two months after that of Fritznel Richard, a 44-year-old Haitian man whose frozen body was found more than a week after he attempted to cross by foot into the United States on Dec. 23. Like Leos Cervantes, Richard had struggled to make ends meet in Canada, the CBC reported.
U.S. border patrol agents for the Swanton Sector said recently the 115 people they apprehended over one week in February were from 12 different countries, mostly from Mexico.
Sununu wrote that while the recent announcement that 25 additional border agents would be stationed in the Swanton Sector was “a good first step” more, he said could be done and should be done “in a collaboration with the state and local authorities to address the alarming rate” of illegal border crossings.
This story is reported by InDepthNH.org.