Faceoff Over Civil Rights and Immigration Legalities

Stephen Seitz and Dan McLean, New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester), May 24

Despite efforts yesterday of a group of protesters—armed with a letter signed by 200 sympathizers—New Ipswich Police Chief W. Garrett Chamberlain said he would not budge on his stance against allowing illegal immigrants in town.

“I will not subscribe to the open-borders philosophy,” Chamberlain told a crowd of about 30 members of the New Hampshire Immigrant Rights Task Force yesterday.

The group rallied first at the New Ipswich police station to protest Chamberlain’s use of the state’s criminal trespassing law to bring some attention to the federal government’s failure to take custody of illegal immigrants his department has arrested.

“If you’re going to come here, then come here legally. I’ll welcome you with open arms,” Chamberlain said.

The protesters, made up of various human rights and labor organizations from around New Hampshire, also delivered a letter of protest to Hudson Police Chief Richard Gendron.

The letter, read to Chamberlain by Rep. Hector M. Velez, D-Manchester, chastised officials for “unjust unconstitutional denials of human rights.”

“Everyone in the United States of America, regardless of immigration status, is entitled to equal protection under our nation’s laws,” Velez said.

The group also accused police departments of setting the stage for racial profiling through their actions.

“Those who are most likely to come under police scrutiny under such policies would be people whose complexion is dark, who speak languages other than English, and who were born in other countries, regardless of immigration status,” Velez read.

Just before protesters arrived in Hudson, Gendron was being hailed by a group of legislators who presented him with a plaque. The recently formed New Hampshire House of Representatives Immigration Caucus was led by Rep. David Buhlman, R-Hudson.

Bulhman said they came to formally recognize Gendron’s “courage to stand up and apply these laws to apprehend those who are in the United States illegally, and who are, therefore, breaking our laws.”

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It remains unclear if the current criminal trespass charges will be upheld by the courts.

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New Hampshire AFL-CIO president Mark MacKenzie, who attended the protest, said illegal immigrants are part of the economy “and that’s the reality.”

Charging illegal immigrants with criminal trespassing “is an embarrassment for New Hampshire,” he said. “I think it paints us a right-wing, reactionary state.”

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Chamberlain has gained national attention for charging Jorge Mora Ramirez, 21, with criminal trespassing. After Ramirez’s car broke down in New Ipswich in mid-April, police determined he was in the U.S. illegally and charged him with criminal trespass. He is scheduled for trial on July 12.

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Contact Chief Chamberlain:

Chief W. Garrett Chamberlain

NEW IPSWICH POLICE DEPARTMENT

659 Turnpike Road

PO Box 439

New Ipswich, NH 03071

Phone: 603-878-2771

Fax: 603-878-4675

E-Mail: [email protected]

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