More than one hundred people, many of them local immigrants, rallied at Nashua City Hall yesterday to demand an end to immigrant deportations and an end to cooperation between the Nashua Police and the federal agents who enforce immigration laws.  

The event followed reports that local police have been tipping off Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about immigrants who were expected to appear at District Court for traffic violations.  After meeting with Nashua residents, the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees and the AFSC decided to hold their annual May Day rally in Nashua instead of Manchester. 

A recent Nashua Telegraph article described the detention of Juan Valdez, who was picked by ICE in March after he went to court on a charge of driving without a license.  The 19-year old is now at risk of being deported to Mexico, which he left when he was five years old. 

Eva Castillo, organizer for the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, served as emcee and led the group in chants. 

Speakers included Olmer Villavicencio and his 10-year old daughter, Joselyn, who in her first public speech criticized deportations for separating families.  “There are many people who are trying to work, and then when they get here they get arrested because they don’t have any papers,” she said.  

Other speakers included Alejandro Urrutia and Enrique Mesa, both members of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs.  Rev. Yolanda Martinez , Sister May Cronin, and Sister Sara also delivered impassioned speeches grounded in religious traditions and principles.  Jean Serino read an emotionally charged letter about the deportation of a friend. 

Maggie Fogarty, who directs the AFSC’s New Hampshire Economic Justice Project, was the final speaker.  Recalling the warm welcome her family received when they lived in Bolivia for several years, she said “I want newcomers in Nashua, in Manchester and Dover, to be greeted with a smile and warm embrace.  I want us to learn what newcomers have to teach us about family and faith and living on this earth.” 

Rallies for immigrants’ rights have been held in recent years on May 1, which is known as Labor Day or Workers Day throughout most of the world.  This was the first such rally in Nashua since 2006. 

A demonstration did take place in Nashua in September 2010, when Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio visited the city for a political fundraising event, but most participants were from out of town.  Yesterday’s rally, by contrast, was mostly residents of Nashua, which now has the largest immigrant and Latino populations in the state.  Members of the community are already talking about holding meetings to learn about their rights and to get better organized. 

Read the Nashua Telegraph article about the May 2 rally.

Look at Arnie's blog for more photos.