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Strengthening New Hampshire’s Immigration Policy

Much of the history of New Hampshire and America’s success comes from the powerful, positive influence of immigration. As a first-generation American from Manchester, I have seen this firsthand. Today, New Hampshire’s greatest long-term challenges come from our aging demographics, and our shrinking levels of entrepreneurship. More than any segment of our population, immigrants, their children, and their grandchildren are both the youngest and the most entrepreneurial members of our communities, and the future of our shared success depends on smart, inclusive immigration policy.

Our federal immigration system is broken, and the words and actions of the Trump Administration have taken a difficult challenge, and turned it into a crisis. In New Hampshire, we respect the law and the constitution, and place public safety as a top priority. We expect the federal government to do the same.

State government has a responsibility to work in concert with the federal government whenever required, and state immigration reform must reflect that. However, the current federal dysfunction is creating challenges at the state level in our ability to address public safety, opioids, and future economic prosperity, and New Hampshire needs thoughtful, bold leadership to solve the problems Washington helped create.

1. Passage of a TRUST (Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools) Act In 2013, Connecticut became the first state to pass a law allowing state agencies and municipal governments to submit to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) request to detain an individual only if there is a serious conviction (typically a felony). Detainer requests are written requests made by ICE to local law enforcement agencies, asking them to hold an individual for an additional 48 hours past their release date to allow ICE to determine if the individual will be taken into custody for deportation. State and local law enforcement are not required to follow these detainer requests, or “immigration holds”, but in the Trump Administration, the number of requests have significantly increased - and the threat of withholding public safety dollars if they are not followed has also increased. Meanwhile, as undocumented immigrants are increasingly at risk of being deported through these immigration holds, they are far less likely to engage with local law enforcement as a victim of, or witness to, a crime. Local communities should not have to fear choosing between enhanced public engagement and communication or the loss of state or federal dollars. Immigrants and their families should not be fearful of engaging with public safety, school, health care, and other public officials who are protecting and serving our communities. This law, which has already been acknowledged as constitutional by current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, should also require a judicial warrant in order to follow the immigration hold.

2. Minimize the use of local law enforcement resources for federal immigration enforcement purposes. As the Trump Administration continues to extend its reach, New Hampshire local law enforcement is increasingly asked to expend local resources to assist ICE. The 100-mile radius within which ICE can perform border patrol stops covers virtually all of New Hampshire, and involving local departments for non-immigration related charges - and it is part of an abuse of ICE’s authority. There are other steps New Hampshire can take to begin reversing this burden on state and local law enforcement, including:

There remain many ways in which collaboration should and must occur, including responding to ICE requests when an individual has been convicted or charged with crimes specified by state law, and for the transfer of inmates for many offenses, including felonies. This policy will have the effect of strengthening public safety, while respecting the 4th and 10th Amendments.

3. Allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. Twelve states issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants if the applicant provides certain documentation, such as a foreign birth certificate or a foreign passport, along with evidence of current residency. In states with this provision, individuals are more easily able to get to and from work, school, and medical appointments, and certain moving violations, including hit-and-run accidents, decrease.

4. Expand in-state tuition to eligible children of undocumented immigrants. About 75% of America’s foreign-born population lives in states where such children are eligible for “tuition equity”, or in-state tuition. This includes more than 20 states, as diverse as California, Texas, Florida, Nebraska, and Utah. Typically, students must attend a high school in-state for a specific number of years before being eligible, and must obviously graduate or receive a GED.