500 rally at City Hall to demand family reunification for immigrants

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MANCHESTER, NH — More than 500 Granite Staters attended the Families Belong Together rally in front of Manchester City Hall on June 30. The rally was organized locally to call for the immediate reunification of families and an end to family detention and separation at the border and in New Hampshire. The rally goers displayed colorful, home-made signs. Following the speakers, protesters spread along Elm Street, chanting “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”

Mayor Joyce Craig greeted the attendees, saying, “It should be our nation’s highest priority to reunite these families. I thank you all for coming today and raising your voices. This is what keeps the pressure on to make sure that we do the right thing.”

Andres Mata, 11, whose father, Gonzalo Mata Perea, was deported to Mexico earlier this year by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was among the speakers who talked about the negative impact separation and detention have on families. Andres spoke briefly on the sadness he feels on being separated from his father.

Gilles Bissonette, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, said, “This crisis is not restricted to our southern border. We are witnessing the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy here in New Hampshire, where Customs and Border Patrol is conducting immigration checkpoints along I-93. They are lying to motorists and misstating the law in an effort to coerce people into talking about their immigration status. These checkpoints are part of the same immigration strategy as the separation of families. We cannot limit our outrage to just the actions along our southern border. We must make our voices heard here in New Hampshire. Protests like this help send the message that the Trump administration’s policies do not reflect the American people. We are sending a message to the world when we band together in our dissent.”

Arnie Alpert of the American Friends Service Committee said, “Every person has the right to live without fear of being separated from their community, and to be treated with dignity and respect. ICE’s very mission means that it tears apart families, destabilizes communities, and makes us all less safe. That’s why we are calling on Congress to defund and dismantle the agency.”

Speakers urged people to join the prayer vigils on July 2 and on the first Tuesdays of the month at 8:30 AM at the Norris Cotton Federal Building on Chestnut Street, and on other dates when ICE requires immigrants to appear. The vigils are organized by American Friends Service Committee, Granite State Organizing Project, NH Council of Churches, and United Valley Interfaith Project.

The event was part of the national protest, Families Belong Together, in over 700 locations across America, including Concord and Portsmouth, NH.