NH's Immigration Story

Our 9 month series, New Hampshire's Immigration Story explored just that... the vast history of who came to New Hampshire, when they came, why they came, the challenges they faced once they landed on Granite State soil and the contributions that they brought to our state. The Exchange, Word of Mouth, and our News Department looked at the issue of immigration from its first arrivals to the newest refugees calling New Hampshire home.

We saw how immigration affects our economy, health care, education system, culture and our current system of law. We also looked at what's going on in New Hampshire today, as we uncovered the groups, societies and little known people who are making an impact all over the state.

Funding for NH's Immigration Story is brought to you in part by: New Hampshire Humanities Council, Norwin S. and Elizabeth N. Bean Foundation, The Gertrude Couch Trust

Mary RN / Morguefile

Astrid Silva came to the United States as an undocumented Mexican immigrant and she spoke last night at the Democratic Convention in favor of Hillary Clinton. She said, “I know she will fight to keep our families together. Nuestras familias. I know she will.”

Joining NHPR’s Peter Biello today to discuss issues of immigration in New Hampshire is Alejandro Urrutia, a doctor originally from Mexico.

Ted Siefer

For the growing immigrant communities in southern New Hampshire, the language barrier poses many challenges, from schools to public transit. The city of Nashua has come up with a novel way to help city bus drivers communicate with passengers with limited English abilities. 


Andy Leppard via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/p6YGQ

DNA evidence broke ground by taking the uncertainty out of criminal convictions. But what was once a slam dunk to judge, jury and the public is increasingly under scrutiny. Today, unraveling genetic evidence.

Plus, Marshall, Texas is not what you'd call an innovation hub, yet a quarter of the nation's patent cases are filed there. A reporter looks into why patent holders and trolls choose this sleepy town and its one powerful judge to settle their suits - fast.

6.23.16: How We Can Be More Nordic & Citizen Khan

Jun 23, 2016
Valerio Fuoglio via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/dcPCcv

Bernie Sanders’ proposals for free education and healthcare were flatly rejected by those who said "we are not Denmark". A new book argues that the policies and protections in Nordic countries don't work because of shared benevolence, but because they benefit everyone's selfish interests. Today, a Finnish expat gives the US a pep talk.

Then, Zarif Khan migrated to America in the early 20th century and became prosperous and beloved in his Wyoming town...though the law prevented his citizenship.

NPR's Tom Gjelten on America's Immigration Story

Jun 6, 2016
Allegra Boverman / NHPR

Longtime NPR foreign correspondent Tom Gjelten writes that for most of our history, immigration law favored Europeans. But with the 1965 Immigration Act, the door was opened for people from all corners of the world, ushering in transformation, tensions and a new debate over what it means to be American.

 Federal data shows that the U.S. government has placed fewer than 100 migrant children from Central America who have entered the United States without their parents in Northern New England since the fall of 2013.

The federal government says it has placed 60 unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras with relatives and other sponsors in New Hampshire. A total of 24 were placed in Maine, and five were placed in Vermont.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Governor Maggie Hassan says she met with the FBI  Sunday to learn about security threats and says she will continue to encourage the federal government to coordinate with local homeland security officials.

But Hassan told reporters she's not ready to change her stance on Syrian refugees.

Natasha Haverty

In the 2016 presidential campaign, few issues have been as fiercely debated as immigration. Here in New Hampshire, the US Southern border thousands of miles away can feel like an abstraction. But a small and growing number of voters in New Hampshire take the immigration debate very personally: the state’s Latino community. And as that community grows, so does its resolve to find a political voice. 

Ted Siefer

Manchester has become an increasingly diverse city in recent years, due in large part to an influx of refugees and immigrants. The political leadership of the city, however, has so far barely reflected its changing demographics.

This changed in small measure last month, when a woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo was elected to the city’s school board. Mary Ngwanda Georges is also the first African immigrant elected to municipal office in New Hampshire.

Syrian Revolution Memory Project / Flickr/CC

Following the Paris Attacks, many politicians including in New Hampshire, are calling for a pause on Syrian and Iraqi refugees coming to the U.S.  This has led to a huge conversation - about American values, where the real risks are, and what the next steps should be.




Both of New Hampshire’s Congressional representatives voted Thursday in favor of a bill to add extra screening steps for refugees resettling the United States from Syria and Iraq.

Rep. Annie Kuster, a Democrat, was one of 47 members of her party who sided with 242 Republicans to pass the bill.

As many leading conservatives call for stopping Syrian refugees from entering the United States, several evangelical Christian organizations are pushing back.

Since last week's attacks in Paris, at least 30 governors in this country, mostly Republicans, have called for keeping Syrian refugees out of the U.S.

Paige Sutherland for NHPR

Governor Hassan’s stance on Syrian refugees aims to be calibrated.

Unlike some Governors, Hassan isn’t presuming to tell Washington New Hampshire won’t accept refugees.

And unlike others, she’s not accusing leaders who want to stop taking refugees of fear mongering.

Instead, Hassan is plotting, what, right now, is a lonely course: trying to explain, if not sell, something resembling a middle ground.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Governor Maggie Hassan is defending her call for the U.S. government to stop accepting refugees from Syria. 

Hassan is the only democratic among the 30 U.S governors opposing current U.S. policy on Syrian refugee resettlement.

She says calling for "a pause" in  Syrian refugee resettlement in light of the Paris attacks is consistent with she called the first job of government, protecting the people.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

In the wake of the attacks in Paris, Sen. Kelly Ayotte is among the political leaders here in the Granite State pushing back against President Obama’s plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees.

"Well, we’re certainly a compassionate nation, but national security has to come first," Ayotte told NHPR's Morning Edition.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

In a statement, Governor Hassan said U.S. intelligence and defense officials need to assure that the process for vetting refugees is "as strong as possible."

Until that happens, says Hassan,  "the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria." 

Senator Kelly Ayotte also says no refugees should be allowed into the country until the government can "100 percent guarantee" they are not affiliated with the Islamic State.

  New Hampshire’s foreign-born population continues to grow, though not as quickly as the national rate.

An analysis of census data from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows the percentage of foreign-born residents in New Hampshire has risen to 5.4 percent.

OZinOH via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/4iiMnW

The US says it will open its doors to at least 10,000 refugees fleeing turmoil in Syria, but that doesn’t mean open arms. Today, we’ll learn about the detention process that keeps asylum seekers behind bars for months – even years – in hidden facilities across the country. Plus, a look at the upcoming lineup for this weekend’s New Hampshire Film Festival – including a documentary about the Gore Vidal vs. William F. Buckley debates that turned televised political debates into blood sport. 

Syrian Refugee Crisis: N.H. Reacts

Sep 15, 2015
DFID - UK Department for International Development / Flickr/CC

As migrants from Syria and other countries pour into Europe, President Obama says the United States will take ten thousand. And so Americans are watching and considering our own capacity to take in refugees, and other ways to address the root problems that are driving so many people out their home countries.


File photo by Allegra Boverman for NHPR

If you attend any Republican presidential campaign event these days, you are all but guaranteed to hear a voter ask this:

“What would you do about illegal immigration?”  

Immigration and the Campaign Trail

Aug 6, 2015
John McIntosh / Flickr/CC

It’s been a top issue this primary season: how to fix what most everyone agrees is a system in need of reform. The remedies vary, from bolstering the border to establishing a path to citizenship.  In some cases, as with GOP candidate Donald Trump, the rhetoric has been heated. We’ll look at how this issue is playing out among both parties.

Hannah McCarthy/NHPR

The late June morning grows warmer as seven refugee farmers till their new plots at Lewis Farm in Concord. This is the second "incubator" farm established by the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success, or ORIS. After the success of their first location, the organization established another to meet the interest of their clients.

Immigration Impasse: The Future Of Reform

Jan 26, 2015
Jerry Schmidt / Flickr/CC

Late last year, President Obama issued sweeping directives for allowing a certain group of undocumented immigrants to remain here without fear of deportation. On Capitol Hill, opposition is fierce among Republicans, who are now coming up with ways to undo these actions.  We’ll find out more, including impacts in the Granite State.


The New Hampshire Humanities Council’s Connections program is an adult literacy program that aims to develop communities of readers. Hari Sharma, who is originally from Bhutan, joined Connections via his ESOL class. 


The books he read with his connections were selected around to focus on important cultural lessons. One unit was based on American suffrage icons including, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr.


Courtesy Shaheen.Senate.gov

New Hampshire’s two U.S. Senators are split on President Obama’s executive order on immigration preventing nearly five million people in the country illegally from being deported.

During a visit to Portsmouth Friday, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen said there’s legal precedent for the president’s action.

But Shaheen said there’s more to work to be done.

“I think Congress needs to act. That’s the way to address this issue and to get it done in a way that addresses our border security and addresses our visa system – all of the aspects of immigration.”

Jack Rodolico

New immigrants often face an unexpected challenge: how to navigate away from an American diet that takes a toll on your health? That’s becoming easier in New Hampshire due to a network of markets and farms that carry familiar foods for the state’s foreign residents.

New Hampshire is home to a small but growing immigrant population; about one in 20 Granite Staters are foreign born. And there’s an experience that unites many of them: that bewildering first visit to an American grocery store.


The 13th annual Laconia Multicultural Festival will be held Saturday.

David Stamps is one of the event’s organizers and says it has grown to include more than 80 vendors and two music stages.

But he says it also hasn’t gotten away from its roots.

“We have a lot of nonprofits who participate. We have a lot of refugees, first Americans, and many Franco-Americans. It’s just such a variety.”

The downtown festival runs from 10 to 4 and opens with a Parade of Flags.

The New Hampshire Humanities Council’s Connections program is an adult literacy program that aims to develop communities of readers. Hari Sharma, who is originally from Bhutan, joined Connections via his ESOL class. 


The books he read with his connections were selected around to focus on important cultural lessons. One unit was based on American suffrage icons including, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr.