By: Helen Price – April, 2017
In recent months, New Hampshire (and, in fact, New England in general) has seen something of an increase in drugs-related problems. What the media termed a ‘heroin apocalypse’ was consistently raised as an issue during last year’s elections, and the drugs casualty rates are truly horrifying. Emergency services are buckling under the strain of emergencies brought on by drugs – both crime and healthcare are struggling to deal with the issue. And a great many people are, tragically, dying from overdoses or toxic cocktails of drugs and alcohol. So why on earth is this happening? Well, according to New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, it’s all the fault of Massachusetts.
Sununu VS Massachusetts
Last Wednesday, Sununu told Boston Herald Radio that the reason his own state was flooding with drugs was due to ‘sanctuary city issues’ across the border. The main target of his ire was the city of Lawrence, which, Sununu claims, has made itself into something of a haven for drug dealers and users alike. Taking aim at the city’s law enforcement, he claimed that lax policing and a lenient judiciary in Lawrence was allowing the drugs trade to proliferate – and that drugs were, as a consequence, leaking over the border into New Hampshire.
Sununu told the radio station that, in Lawrence, “You have undocumented drug dealers that are dealing these drugs, they are getting arrested, they are being given bail by judges … they’re jumping bail, getting a new ID and they’re back in that same home dealing drugs a week later. It’s an absolutely crazy system.” In Sununu’s view, 85% of the fentanyl (a powerful opioid, considered more potent than heroin) in New Hampshire comes from Massachusetts.
Others have taken issue with Sununu’s stance, saying that passing the buck to Massachusetts is a way of avoiding taking responsibility for his own state’s problems. While New Hampshire is extending efforts to treat and prevent addiction, many addicts wishing to recover are still left without any recourse to get clean other than their own (often dangerous) methods.
Lawrence, in Massachusetts, is, as Sununu rightly notes, a ‘Sanctuary City’. A sanctuary city is one which offers a degree of shelter and protection to refugees and illegal immigrants. It does this by not enforcing federal immigration laws unless circumstances absolutely demand that they do so. By singling out Lawrence and its sanctuary city status in this manner, many say that Sununu is unfairly associating immigrants with drugs, and making stereotyped assumptions about the criminal propensities of non-citizens. However, Lawrence does have a well-documented drugs problem, and Sununu is not the only one to link sanctuary cities to the uptick in drugs related crime. President Trump has – to the anger of many – announced the removal of federal grants for sanctuary cities. Most sanctuary cities have vowed to fight against this defunding tactic, but one mayor – Carlos Gimenez, Republican, of Miami-Dade County – has dropped sanctuary status in response. Lawrence shows no signs of abandoning its sanctuary city status, meaning that Sununu could be at loggerheads with them for a while. Sununu, talking tough, vowed to “go over the border” to deal with the problem. Quite how he’ll do this without authority in Massachusetts remains a matter for inter-state negotiation – and Lawrence, following Sununu’s comments, does not appear to be in a mood to negotiate.
Lawrence has responded with puzzlement and anger to Sununu’s claims. Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera accused Sununu of massively oversimplifying a complex issue, and expressed disappointment at Sununu’s chosen tactics. “I don’t think he understands what he’s talking about”, Rivera told reporters. Lawrence Police Chief James Fitzpatrick has released a statement saying that his force works very hard on drugs-related crime, and is already working together with forces across New England to get a handle on the problem. Since Sununu’s words on the topic, he has spoken with Mayor Rivera by phone.
During a conversation which Rivera termed ‘productive’, Sununu appears to have revised his opinion of Lawrence law-enforcement – which he now says is ‘working hard’ – but remains determined to instigate a cross-border approach to limit the flow of drugs from MA into NH.