New Hampshire Anti-Sanctuary Bill Passes Committee
FAIR Take | March 2021
Bills to abolish dangerous sanctuary policies in New Hampshire have been introduced over the past several legislative sessions. Now Republicans have a trifecta, controlling the legislature and governorship, so this session may be the best chance yet for an anti-sanctuary bill to actually be enacted. Already the signs are somewhat encouraging as a bill advances through the process.
House Bill (HB) 266 was introduced by Representative John Potucek (R-Derry) on January 6 and currently has eight cosponsors in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, as well as one in the state Senate, Senator Bill Gannon (R-Sandown). The bill would:
- Require state and local law enforcement to honor federal immigration detainers, which are requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold illegal aliens for up to 48-hours after their release on local charges, so that they can be picked them the process of their removal from the country can be started or continued;
- Define and ban sanctuary policies statewide;
- Authorize complaints of possible violations to the state Attorney General (AG) by anyone, including by federal agencies; and
- Provide that if the AG determines a violation has occurred and has not been fixed within 60 days, the offending state or local government entity becomes ineligible for state funds until the violation is fixed.
The bill was considered by the House County and Municipal Government Committee in a public hearing on March 8. FAIR staff testified both in writing and in person, stressing the dangers, unfairness and expense caused by sanctuary policies.
On March 12, HB 266 was voted out of committee on a party-line vote of 10 to 9. It now heads to the House floor, and under New Hampshire’s legislative rules it is guaranteed a floor vote, although it is uncertain when that might occur. New Hampshire’s 400-member House, the largest in the country, is currently divided between 212 Republicans and 186 Democrats, with two vacancies.
Should the bill pass the House, the Senate might refer it to committee for its own hearings, particularly as there is no similar companion bill in the Senate. Or it might be taken up directly to the Senate floor. Republicans control the much smaller upper chamber 14 to 10.
If it reaches his desk, Governor Chris Sununu (R) has not publicly weighed in on HB 266. However, in 2017 he said “sanctuary city issues" were affecting New Hampshire, particularly involving drug-related crime, and in 2018, he opposed a bill to make New Hampshire a sanctuary state. Now he is rumored likely to run for the US Senate in 2022, which also may weigh into his consideration of the bill.
On balance, it appears the governor would probably sign the anti-sanctuary bill or at least allow it to become law without his signature. However, if he did veto it, the legislature almost certainly does not have the two-thirds supermajorities in both chambers that would be required for an override.
New Hampshire’s legislative session is currently scheduled to adjourn on June 30. Granite staters should contact their legislators and Gov. Sununu to support HB 266.