A bill that would have mandated that state and local police check the immigration status of everyone they arrest or detain was defeated February 15 by the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 14 to 1 to recommend the defeat of HB 1494 after a February 7 hearing that brought out immigrant leaders, faith-based groups, labor, and law enforcement to oppose the measure. 

"This is going to destroy the efforts of the police to reach out to the community,” Eva Castillo of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees told the committee.  “This is going to stop the efforts of the police to keep our community safe,” said Castillo, who serves as a member of the Manchester Police Commission.

Castillo also described the prevalence of unwarranted police stops of people based on accent or skin color.  Passage of HB 1494 would make such ethnic and racial profiling even more common, she said. 

Ana Ford, who serves as Vice President of the union representing state employees, described her own experience with racial profiling, which she said would be intensified if HB 1494 were to become law.

The bill’s legal flaws were pointed out by Katherine Cooper of the NH Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  

Others who testified against the bill included Judy Elliott of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, Claire Ebel of the NH Civil Liberties Union, Cathy Chesley from Catholic Charities, Arnie Alpert of the AFSC, Kurt Ehrenberg of the NH AFL-CIO, and Ginny Schneider, a Henniker resident.

“This bill sends a signal to the international community that we are an inhospitable state,” Schneider said.

Speaking for the Department of Safety, State Police Captain David Parenteau explained that the legislation would put an unnecessary burden on law enforcement, and would lead to needless detentions of citizens.  

Only the bill’s sponsor spoke in favor.

The Committee’s deliberation was short.  Rep. David Welch, a veteran lawmaker and former committee chair, moved the bill was “inexpedient to legislate,” the State House term for a recommendation that it be defeated. 

Although the House has passed a resolution supporting Arizona’s strict anti-immigrant law and also adopted a bill barring undocumented students from in-state tuition at state colleges, the defeat of HB 1494 represents a rather consistent rejection of anti-immigrant bills that have been introduced annually since 2006.   The in-state tuition bill will come up soon in the Senate Education Committee, where it will be opposed by the AFSC, the Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, and the University System.  

Click here for an update on the status of immigration bills.