Over the weekend, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested at least four undocumented immigrants in Nashua and Manchester. The arrests occurred less than a day after an immigration reform rally was held in Nashua. Immigration activists are calling foul and continuing demonstrations.
Tuesday afternoon, protesters gathered outside ICE headquarters in Manchester. They are protesting the recent arrests of undocumented immigrants on Sunday.
Lidia Rodriguez attended the rally. She owns the restaurant El Mexicana in Manchester. Rodriguez says about 20 ICE agents and Manchester Police officers interrupted a birthday party Sunday night to arrest a single man with an outstanding warrant.
“And I say, ‘Ok, the guys come, take the guy and go home.’ But no, asking everybody, ‘You got your papers? Are you legal here? How old are you?’ Why? Why you asking to my customers?”
The officers arrested Rigoberto Perez, a 27-year-old in the country illegally. Ruben Mendez, a 19-year-old, was also arrested when he admitted to being here illegally. Mendez was released the following day pending a court hearing.
Earlier that morning in Nashua, ICE agents arrested two more undocumented immigrants.
“This is a nationwide operation that you’re seeing in New Hampshire, targeting individuals, at-large criminal aliens and others who pose a threat to our community.”
ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein stresses that the arrests in Nashua and Manchester were a result of targeted searches, even if those ultimately arrested were not necessarily the intended targets.
“We’re not conducting sweeps or raids of illegal aliens indiscriminately. That’s not what we’re doing…
“The people that pose a public safety threat are obviously first and foremost on our list of people to arrest.”
The two Nashua men were not on ICE’s list. But, Immigration Lawyer Enrique Mesa represents them and says it's common for immigration officers to knock on a door and say:
“’We’re looking for this person,’ and then they say, ‘well, this person doesn’t live here.’ ‘Do you mind us looking inside anyways?’ And then that’s when they open the door because they think that they’re not after them.”
Eva Castillo is the Director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees and the organizer of recent rallies. She says these arrests are disruptive to the families and local businesses.
“We realize that they have to do their job but we want to put a stop to the abuses. There’s a way to do things, respecting the rights of immigrants.”
Some at the rally have suggested that the crackdown was in direct response to the Saturday morning rally. But ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein says that’s not the case.
“I can actually tell you from first-hand knowledge, I was actually, myself—even though I’m here in Washington—I was up with our officers in Manchester on Saturday morning, and none of us knew about any type of rally whatsoever. We were not even told about a rally. We had no knowledge of a rally.”
Feinstein says that the nationwide ICE operation will continue throughout the week.