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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nashua immigrants found staying in the country illegally detained hours after downtown rally, federal agency says no ties to protest

NASHUA – A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman confirmed the agency detained two immigrants in Nashua believed to be staying in the country illegally the morning after a large immigration reform rally was held downtown, but denied any ties to that rally.

New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, working with several other immigrant rights groups, held a rally in front of City Hall on Saturday morning. Some immigrant rights supporters called the detentions aggressive and worried they came as retaliation for Saturday’s rally – a claim ICE denied. ...

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NASHUA – A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman confirmed the agency detained two immigrants in Nashua believed to be staying in the country illegally the morning after a large immigration reform rally was held downtown, but denied any ties to that rally.

New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, working with several other immigrant rights groups, held a rally in front of City Hall on Saturday morning. Some immigrant rights supporters called the detentions aggressive and worried they came as retaliation for Saturday’s rally – a claim ICE denied.

“We had no idea about any protest whatsoever,” said Ross Feinstein, an ICE spokesman. “We have an ongoing targeted enforcement action going on permanently. We don’t do sweeps or raids. All of our enforcements across the board are targeted.”

Eva Castillo, a NHAIR coordinator, said Monday that she can’t be sure the detentions were retaliatory. She said however one of the men arrested and detained in Nashua was at the rally the day before.

“It could be retaliation, but who knows?” Castillo said.

Feinstein said two men with no legal right to stay in the country were taken from their Nashua apartment early Sunday morning as part of a coordinated effort throughout the state to locate and detain individuals considered a “threat” to public safety. There are currently an estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally, Feinstein said, and because his agency only has resources to deport about 400,000 every year, the agency seeks out those with criminal records.

Later Sunday, ICE targeted two individual eating at El Mexicano Restaurante Jr. on Wilson Street in Manchester. One was later released, Feinstein said.

The incidents sparked outrage in the immigrant rights community, with calls of foul play by several members of the organizations. In response to the incident, a silent vigil was held Monday evening outside the Norris Cotton Federal Building, which houses the local ICE offices, where the two Nashua men were arraigned on charges of “immigration administrative violations.”

In a press release Monday night, Arnie Alpert, of the American Friends Service Committee, said eight people were detained by ICE throughout the state over the weekend.

Feinstein confirmed the Nashua men were released Monday because they are not “high priority” since they do not have criminal records. He added the men, whom he would not identify, do not pose a threat to the community so they will be asked to return to court at another time to go before an immigration judge and plead their case.

Castillo said her group of activists will return Tuesday at 4 p.m., outside the Manchester federal building, to hold another vigil and raise awareness of these events.

“It’s going to talk about the violation of rights of people and to ask (ICE) to stop harassing people,” she said.

Alpert called the detentions “aggressive and unnecessary,” in both the Nashua and Manchester incidents.

“While we’re on the brink of human immigration reform, this is uncalled for,” Alpert added. “It’s unnecessary … I hope that (ICE) will be responsive to public concerns and concerns from our members of Congress.”

The Manchester immigrant who was not released was being held on local charges with Manchester police, for crimes considered a “threat to public safety” including a driving while intoxicated charge, Feinstein said. That man was not identified by ICE and his records could not be found immediately by Manchester police before press time.

Samantha Allen can be reached at 594-6426 or sallen@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Allen on Twitter (@Telegraph_SamA).