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Correspondent photo by Simon Rios

Egyptian American Nabil Migalli, center, of Manchester is shown at a May rally in support of immigrants.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May Day event focuses on local immigrants

NASHUA – As Main Street traffic swelled at the close of business, a crowd of about 100 people gathered outside City Hall Monday afternoon to demand an end to Nashua police’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

“We decided to combine the idea of May Day with the harassment by the Police Department of Nashua of undocumented immigrants,” said Nabil Migalli of Manchester, an organizer of the event.

Though International Workers Day occurs May 1, the event was planned for May 2 to be noticed by commuters and the people inside City Hall.

“We value workers, we value labor,” Migalli said. “We cannot punish them because they’re coming to work.”

Ten-year-old Jocelyn Villavicencio of Nashua spoke for her first time in public.

“There are many people that are trying to work, and then when they get here they get arrested because they don’t have any papers,” she said. “They’re trying to work because they want their child to grow up here so they can get a job… and have a better life.”

Villavicencio’s father, Olmer Villavicencio of Ecuador, was undocumented when he arrived in 1994. But he received a work permit in early 1996 and was granted citizenship four years ago. The current situation in Nashua has spurned Villavicencio to take part in the immigrant rights movement.

Demonstrators hoisted signs reading “no human being is illegal” and “keep our families together.” Together they chanted “in New Hampshire and in every state, people say no to hate,” and “si se puede,” Spanish for “yes we can.”

“Most of the people that come to this country are coming here because they are escaping from injustice,” said Alejandro Urrutia, a member of Gov. John Lynch’s Commission on Latino Affairs who spoke at the rally. “We can not allow the law enforcement officers of New Hampshire to be cooperating with the causes of injustice in the countries they escaped (from).”

Protests took place all over the country, from New York to Madison to Los Angeles.

Danny Keating of Nashua was present at a rally in Boston on Sunday and in Nashua on Monday.

“As we’ve seen lately with the attacks on public sector workers and union workers,” Keating said, “the attacks on them lower the standards for all workers, just as the attacks on immigrants do.”

Keating said migrants have played a major role in U.S. labor history.

“The workers who started May Day were mostly immigrants themselves. When you see how the labor movement has come forward in the United States it’s generally pushed by immigrants with the most menial jobs.”

The event was co-organized by the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, and the American Friends Service Committee. Representatives from groups such as the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, the Nashua Democratic Committee, and the Socialist Alternative were also present.

The Granite State Organizing Project, a coalition of 32 church, social, and labor groups, also sponsored the event.

“I want newcomers in Nashua, in Manchester and Dover, to be greeted with a smile and warm embrace,” said Maggie Fogarty of the American Friends Service Committee, which is part of the GSOP. She spoke in both Spanish and English. “I want us to learn what newcomers have to teach us about family and faith and living on this earth.”

Simon Rios can be reached at