Posts Tagged ‘immigration’


It was billed as a “solemn vigil” to protest the implementation of the federal “Secure Communities” program in New Hampshire.  But for more than 70 people who gathered in the rain outside Manchester’s Norris Cotton Federal Building it was hard to remain solemn when the Sisters of Mercy started chanting, “Stop Deportations Now.”

On the other hand, everyone paid close attention to Paloma SylvestrP1000505 e, who described her husband Juan’s arrest.  “He was just driving, going to work,” she  said, and was stopped “just for his features.”  Paloma was hospitalized during the months Juan was in jail, forcing the couple’s three boys to be separated from both their parents.  The family still feels the trauma.

P1000512 “I don’t want this to happen to another family,” she said.

S-Comm represents an escalation of immigration enforcement through data sharing between local police, FBI, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  It makes immigrants less secure and by fostering increased fear of police makes our whole communities less secure. 

This evening’s vigil was organized when ICE announced last week that S-Comm was in effect in New Hampshire.  The event included prayers, comments from Eva Castillo, Maggie Fogarty, and me, and several songs.  Newsmedia coverage included WMUR-TV and the NH Union Leader.



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A crowd of about a hundred people combined pro-immigrant and pro-worker messages at a May Day rally outside the Dover, New Hampshire City Hall today.  Despite an on-again off-again drizzle, spirits stayed strong during speeches by immigrant and religious leaders, songs led by Rev. Mary Westfall, and music 5-1-12 008 performed by the Leftist Marching Band.

The rally was organized by the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, and emceed by its organizer, Eva Castillo.  Support also came from the American Friends Service Committee and Occupy Dover.

Speakers included Dr. Sara Alier, President 5-1-12 050of the South Sudanese Association; Suraj Budathoki, a member of the Bhutanese Community of NH; the Rev. Sandra Pontoh of the  Maranatha Indonesian UCC Church in Madbury; Attorney Larry Vogelman; Maggie Fogarty of the AFSC; State Rep. David Watters of Dover; and the Rev. Kendra Ford of the Exeter UU Church.

The connections between workers and immigrants were evident, for example in 5-1-12 078remarks of several speakers concerning a February incident in which reports of wage theft at a nearby construction site prompted community protests which helped the workers collect pay they were owed.  Lindsey Wettleland of Occupy Dover also noted that Dover was the site of the first industrial strike by women in the USA.  Judy Elliott, an ESOL teach and NH COSH safety trainer spoke about the common on-the-job injuries experienced by immigrant workers and the rights that all workers have to a safe workplace. 

Danny Provencal Fogarty, a Dover 8th grader, was probably the most effective speaker with his reading of the Emma Lazarus poem from the Statue 5-1-12 052of Liberty and impromptu remarks – in Spanish and English – about his own experience living in a Bolivian village and the importance of having a welcoming attitude to immigrants.  Danny has a future as a public speaker!

A small counter-protest by the Granite State Patriots, a tea party group led by a one-time head of the State Republican Party, drew only 5 people.  They complied with requests to be a non-disruptive presence and left halfway through the rally.

The rally featured spirited renditions of “This Land is Your Land,” “We Shall Not  Be Moved,” and “We Shall Overcome.”  “Solidarity Forever” was sung with choruses in Spanish and Indonesian as well as English. 

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Here’s my new verse for “This Land is Your Land”

“We are dissenters from the one per centers,

For human rights, we are defenders,

For social justice, we are extenders,

This land was made for you and me.”5-1-12 080

May 1 rallies for immigrants’ rights in recent years had been held in Manchester and Nashua.   The decision to hold this year’s rally in Dover followed a February incident in which Dover police called federal immigration authorities when a small group of immigrants showed up at the police station to report an incident of wage theft and request assistance.

Earlier in the day immigrants rights activists attended a State House hearing on a resolution of  support for Arizona’s repressive immigration law, known as SB 1070.  Not a single supporter, no5-1-12 001t even the resolution’s sponsor, showed up to speak for the non-binding expression of intolerance.  But opponents included Eva Castillo, Judy Elliott from NH AIR, Clair Ebel of the NH Civil Liberties Union, Cathy Chesley from Catholic Charities, Attorney Enrique Mesa, Louise Hannan of NH COSH, and me.  Following the hearing, the Senate Internal Affairs Committee voted 2-1 to recommend killing the resolution, which had already passed the NH House.  

Here’s more photos:

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From February 25 to March 4 I was in Oaxaca, Mexico as coordinator of a Witness for Peace delegation exploring links between migration and economic conditions, and also looking at steps Oaxacans are taking to make it possible for them to stay at home.  The fifteen delegates included 11 New Hampshire residents, plus two from Massachusetts, one from Rhode Island, and one from Washington DC.  Here’s my first report.

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In the city, you only eat if you have money

It was market day in the village of San Miguel Huautla, where Doña Anastasia Velasco Lopez greeted us when we got off the bus. She handed us bags of bananas and mangos to carry back to her house a few hundred yards away. Her friend, Doña Maria Lopez Espinosa, with three colorful sombreros stacked on her head, joined us for the walk.

Our 15-member delegation, accompanied by two members of the Witness for Peace Mexico staff, was glad to off the bus and out in the fresh air. San Miguel Huautla is a two-hour ride on bumpy dirt roads from Noxchixtlan, a small city on the southern side of the highland region of Oaxaca known as the Mixteca.

Oaxaca is Mexico’s second southernmost state, second most indigenous, and second poorest. According to the state government, a third of Oaxacans are now living in the United States. Many more have left for northern Mexico.

The Mixteca occupies much of the Oaxaca’s center. It is known for the deforested, eroded hillsides which have made farming a challenge for generations. Of the state’s eight regions, the Mixteca is the one which has sent the most émigrés out of Oaxaca.

Doña Anastasia and Doña Maria aren’t going anywhere. The two women are “promotoras,” grassroots educators, with CEDICAM, the Center for Integral Development of Campesinos of the Mixteca, an organization dedicated to restoration of food sovereignty for the region. Through a grassroots process that encourages reforestation, water conservation, and organic farming based on ancient indigenous practices, CEDICAM is helping communities produce food and livelihood for themselves. Phil Dahl-Bredine, a former Maryknoll Missioner who now lives in a small Mixtec village and volunteers with CEDICAM, says the methods practiced by indigenous Oaxacans represent a “foundation for an agriculture of the future.”

Speaking of resource depletion associated with the over-consuming North, Phil saidfeb 28 005 we need “a whole change of mindset” based on indigenous knowledge. “We can’t feed the world with industrial agriculture,” he told our group at the organization’s headquarters on the outskirts of Nochixtlan.

Doña Anastasia and Doña Maria aren’t feeding the world, either, but they are immensely proud of the vegetables and livestock they grow to feed themselves and members of their community. Doña Anastasia showed us her new cistern, which will collect water during the rainy season and enable her to irrigate during the dry months. She showed us the peach trees she had planted, her worm farm, and the beds where she plants radishes, tomatoes, “everything.”

Like other CEDICAM members, Doña Anastasia is devoted to organic methods. “If I buy cilantro in the market, I don’t know how it was grown,” she said.

Doña Maria returned, by then wearing only one sombrero. Reminding me of anyone showing off her garden in New Hampshire, she showed us around the plots of land Dona Maria - Martha photo. where she raises radishes, greens, amaranth, cilantro, squash, green beans, peas, garbanzos, fava beans, mint, chamomile, barley, wheat, and cajete, an ancient variety of corn well suited to dry climates. She also raises sheep, but said sometimes the price of wool drops as low as one peso (less than eight cents) a kilogram and it’s not worth the trouble. “The way of life here is very difficult,” she told us.

So that her kids could go to school, she washed clothes and left home to work in Nochixtlan. Later she was able to buy livestock, and started selling tomatoes and candies. But hard as it is, she told us “I always say you can make a life here.”

Doña Maria’s idea of “a life,” though, might not be enough to keep the kids at home. Sometimes she sells food to construction workers, like the men who rebuilt a bridge near her fields. She also weaves hats in her home and sells them in the market. Doña Anastasia explained that while they can grow enough to feed themselves, young people leave because they want more: clothes, shoes, school supplies, and cash to help their families.

The village has only a few phones and there’s no regular TV reception, but some homes do have satellite dishes. (Doña Anastasia says she only watches DVDs.) The outside world may be a couple hours or more away by bus, but its shoes, clothes, and other attractions can lure the youth away.

Tomasa Velasco Sanchez tomasa y florencialives up the slope from Doña Anastasia. Her mama,  Florencia Sanchez, said they only plant a little because they have so little water. But Tomasa told us they plan to plant beans, corn, and wheat. The CEDICAM promotoras invited them to join a study group and attend workshops. That’s when they started working their fields and raising their own food. They have to haul water from a ditch, and in the hot season the ditch is empty.

Tomasa tells us that if she ever has kids, she wants to raise them in San Miguel Huautla. “In the city, you only eat if you have money,” she explained.



Thanks to Martha Yager for the photos of Doña Maria and of Tomasa and Florencia.

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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.

5-2-11 Nashua 015 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

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emcee and led the group in chants.  She was joined at the stage by Olmer Villavicencio, an Ecuadoran immigrant who distributed hundreds of flye5-2-11 Nashua 028rs at churches and stores in the preceding two weeks and deserves much of the credit for the turnout.  Olmer’s 10-year old daughter, Joselyn, 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 ,

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Sister May Cronin, and Sister Sara also delivered impassioned speeches grounded in religious traditions and principles.  Jean Serino, of Hudson, read a letter about the personal impact of deportation. 

5-2-11 Nashua 055 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 Maricopajust say no 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.

The rally was attended by several members of the Sisters of Mercy, activists from the Granite State Organizing Project, and members of the local Democratic Party. 

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The rally was covered in today’s Nashua Telegraph.

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liana workshop Culture of Peace conference march 5 004 Rev. Liana Rowe’s involvement in Arizona’s immigration controversy began when members of the state’s religious community heard reports about corpses of immigrants being found in the desert near the Mexican border. Soon she was drawn into debates over racial profiling by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department, measures that turned immigrants into criminals under Arizona law, and the range of issues involving law enforcement, employment, and services for the thousands of people who cross the Mexico-US border each year without authorization.

“Desperate people move. It’s a global phenomenon,” she told participants in a workshop Saturday morning at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Concord, the first event on her 9-day speaking tour of New Hampshire. But as immigration crackdowns in the urban centers forced migrants into more remote areas, harsh desert conditions caused death and suffering, she explained.

In essence, migrants were getting death sentences for crossing the border without authorization, which as a matter of law is a civil offense, like a speeding ticket.

“As communities of faith, we looked at the deaths in the desert and said ‘this is not acceptable,’” she said.

  Her presentation in Concord, as well as one Saturday evening at the First Parish Church in E. Derry and one at the Community Church of Durham on Sunday explained the relationship between border enforcement, interior enforcement, and detention, all of which have subject unauthliana sandra maranatha 3-6-2011 033orized migrants to harsh treatment and destroyed families.

Rev. Rowe also gave the Sunday sermon at the Community Church of Durham and delivered greetings to the Maranatha Indonesian UCC Church in Madbury, which celebrated its seventh birthday yesterday.

Her schedule for the rest of the week includes events in Manchester and Hanover Tuesday, Concord Wednesday, Concord and Pelham Thursday, Franconia Friday, and finishes up in Concord on Sunday.

Rev. Rowe, a resident of N. Phoenix, sits on the Board of Directors for Humane Borders, a humanitarian organization that maintains water stations in remote desert regions of Southern Arizona.  She has also been active with the Somos America/We Are America Coalition in advocating for human and civil rights in Arizona. Rev. Rowe was 2011 recipient of the City of Phoenix Martin Luther King, Jr. Living the Dream Award.

Her New Hampshire tour is sponsored by the Commission on Witness and Action of the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ and the American Friends Service Committee.

Rev. Rowe will be accompanied at many of the presentations by the Rev. Sandra Pontoh, pastor of the Maranatha Indonesian UCC Church in Madbury, and Eva Castillo Turgeon, who leads the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees.liana & derek - durham 3-6-2011

At its 2010 annual meeting, the NH Conference of the United Church of Christ adopted a resolution calling for solidarity with immigrants and with the Southwest Conference of the UCC. The resolution called on church members “to consider prayer, study, protest, and other possible actions for immigrant rights, and that the NHCUCC will mobilize our congregations for just and fair Federal Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”

The United Church of Christ is New Hampshire’s largest Protestant group, with 139 churches and 23,000 members across the state.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization whose work for social justice includes a commitment to humane immigration reform.

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CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — A New Hampshire House subcommittee considering a resolution putting New Hampshire on the side of Arizona’s approach to immigration policy will recommend the resolution be put aside for further study when the full Committee on State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs meets tomorrow.

After a discussion of whether states have the constitutional authority Eva Ana and Rep Marcus Discus immigration 1-19-11to enact their own immigration policies, the subcommittee members concluded study was preferable to endorsing the resolution, HCR 2, as submitted by Rep. Bruce Marcus (R- Peterborough), or proposing their own amended language.

Rep. Seth Cohn (R-Canterbury) proposed substitute language expressing sympathy with the victims of the Tucson shooting, but this was rejected.

Rep. Marcus, who missed last week’s hearing on his resolution, testified that Arizona and other southern states are facing huge expenses for health care and education due to the federal government’s failure to enforce immigration law. Arizona’s schools, he said, use curriculum materials which call for Mexico to forcibly re-take land which has been part of the USA since the 19th century. The problem is spreading, he warned.

“I am only asking that we support the state of Arizona in their fight with the federal government,” he said. But sub-committee members appeared to be uncomfortable with a resolution which said the state of New Hampshire “fully supports” Arizona’s approach, which is being challenged in court on constitutional grounds.

Rep. Todd Smith (R-Hooksett), who chaired the subcommittee, suggested language that instead of implying explicit support for Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 would state that New Hampshire supports the right of Arizona to protect its own borders. But even that has constitutional problems, said Rep. Cohn and others in the hearing room.

“If we say we’re supporting Arizona everyone’s going to say we’re supporting SB 1070,” protested Rep. Theodoros Rokas (D-Manchester).

Rep. Lynn Blankenbecker (R-Concord) observed there did not appear to be support for endorsing the resolution as written, and suggested the Committee refer the bill to interim study. Her resolution was adopted unanimously by the sub-committee.

Discussion of whether the US Constitution reserves control of the borders to the federal government, or whether the 10th Amendment gives states authority to enact their own immigration policies, will be left to another day.

[from http://afsc.org/story/nh-subcommittee-recommend-%E2%80%9Cinterim-study%E2%80%9D-immigration-resolution

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[from http://afsc.org/story/nh-activists-oppose-az-immigration-law-state-house-hearing]


CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Immigrant rights activists gave members of a legislative committee plenty of reasons to defeat a resolution endorsing Arizona’s repressive immigration law at a State House hearing this morning.

The badly worded resolution attempted to link Arizona’s immigration law to state obligations to protect the safety and job security of New Hampshire citizens. In addition to calling on the state “to protect its citizens from illegal immigrants,” the resolution says “the state of New Hampshire fully supports the state of Arizona’s immigration law.”

The resolution “promotes division, intolerance, and hatred,” said Ana Herrero, a Ana 1 - HCR 2 hearing 1-13-11 Webster resident who described her service in the US Navy, her pride at becoming a US citizen, and her apprehension that she would be one of those targeted, based on her surname and skin color, if an Arizona-type immigration law were in force in New Hampshire

The resolution, HCR 2, was introduced by Rep. Bruce Marcus of Peterborough, who did not attend the hearing. It is being considered by the Committee on State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs.

In addition to Herrera, opponents included Eva Castillo of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, Cathy Chesley of Catholic Charities, Clair Ebel of the NH Civil Liberties Union, Barbara French representing the United Church of Christ, Rep. Frances Potter of Concord, Alejandro Urrutia, and several others.

Although the resolution did not indicate which specific Arizona law was supposedly worthy of endorsement and imitation, most speakers assumed it referrChristian - HCR 2 hearing 1-13-11ed to SB 1070, which passed in 2010 and is currently the subject of six lawsuits. Christian Urrutia, a recent law school graduate, outlined a variety of reasons why a federal court has placed an injunction on implementation of major provisions of SB 1070 due to a variety of constitutional flaws.

Long-time immigrants’ rights activist Judy Elliott, of Canterbury, answered numerous questions from legislators about her contention that the Arizona law would promote discriminatory profiling, a problem some members of the Committee appeared prepared to disregard.

Gibran Ortiz, a Mexican immigrant, explained that he is studying to become a police officer and would prefer to spend his time protecting his community from dangerous crime, not hounding immigrants for their papers.

Immigration lawyer George Bruno, former US Ambassador to Belize, said SB 1070’s provisions on harboring illegal aliens would make criminals out of priests and social workers. “The Arizona model is not the path New Hampshire should travel,” he said.

Eva Castillo put it thiGibran & Eva 1-13-11s way, “Let what happens in Arizona stay in Arizona.”

I tried to explain to the committee members that the resolution would inspire fear of immigrants, who are our neighbors, co-workers, employers, and customers. If New Hampshire were to follow Arizona’s example, I said, the state would have to change its motto from “Live Free or Die” to “Show Me Your Papers.”

Only one person, a Nashua resident, spoke in favor.

HCR 2 has been referred to a sub-committee, which will meet next Tuesday. Its deliberation will inform a full committee vote, which would then become the basis for consideration by the full 400-member House of Representatives.

The legislature expects to review more than 800 bills in the legislative session that began a week ago. So far, the text of only 194 of them has been made public. Whether legislation modeled on SB 1070 is on its way remains to be seen.

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