Aug. 16: Event in Manchester, Dover, and Madbury protesting immigrant detention and deportation

One of 65 cars that joined a drive-by protest at the ICE detention center in Dover. Courtesy Photo

MANCHESTER, NH  – The year’s largest New Hampshire event protesting immigrant detention and deportation will occur on Sunday, August 16. The “Solidarity Network Day of Action for Immigrant Justice is expected to draw over 200 vehicles with drivers and passengers.

Sponsored by seven organizations, it will begin with a 1 p.m. prayer vigil at Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester, then convoy via car on Hanover Street to a 3 p.m. rolling rally at  Strafford County Detention Center in Dover, which incarcerates around 80 immigrants civilly held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The event will conclude with a celebration at  Maranatha Indonesian Church in Madbury.

At Manchester and Madbury, protesters will display a 9’ by 9’ section of a quilt created by local artisans, part of a larger, international project that will contain 45,000 individual symbols to represent the average of 45,000 people held in ICE detention every day in 2019.

In 2018, participants walked from Manchester to Dover. In 2019, walkers from Boston and Kittery, Maine, and bikers from Norwich, Vermont met in Dover. This year’s event has been adapted this year to be Covid-safe and socially-distanced.

Until March, 2019, Manchester vigils occurred monthly when ICE required immigrants to appear, until the ICE appearances stopped due to the Covid pandemic. Protesters have been holding weekly rolling rallies, hosted by Never Again Action, at Strafford County House of Detention since April 11, a total of 17 events.

The eight cosponsors are: Never Again Action New HampshireGranite State Organizing ProjectNH Alliance for Immigrants and RefugeesNH Indonesian Community SupportAmerican Friends Service Committee-NH ProgramUnitarian Universalist Action New HampshireNew Hampshire Council of Churches, and Rights and Democracy NH.

Eva Castillo, lead organizer for the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees and leader of the previous solidarity walks, said, “We call upon our Members of Congress to significantly decrease funding for ICE and CBP.  We must ensure that the Department of Homeland Security cannot transfer or reprogram funds into abusive immigration enforcement agencies. It is time for our nation to live up to its promise and create a path to citizenship for all; give protection and due process for all who seek asylum; and put an end to immigration detention and deportation and all policies which separate families.”

Organizers have invited officials including Governor Chris Sununu; Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan; and Congressional representatives Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster. Also invited are Andru Volinsky and Dan Feltes, both candidates for governor. All responded that they are unable to attend.

In July, Never Again Action NH sent to Governor Chris Sununu a 1,100-signature petition and a 90-signature clergy letter, both demanding that he and other officials act to free the immigrants who are civilly detained by ICE at Strafford County Department of Corrections in Dover. Sununu did not reply.