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Search for illegal immigrants angers advocates for reform

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 08. 2013 10:54PM

Federal immigration enforcement officials took four illegal immigrants into custody on Sunday, arrests that an angry immigration reform advocate said involved two people who attended a reform rally in Nashua the day before.

The arrests took place in Manchester and Nashua. A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said three of the four were quickly released from custody and given a date to appear before an immigration judge.

The fourth - Rigoberto Obregon-Perez - was jailed on a warrant for failing to appear in court on a charge of drunken driving, and ICE has placed a hold on him, said Manchester police Lt. Maureen Tessier.

ICE said Obregon-Perez has a record that includes convictions of drunken-driving and disorderly conduct.

The arrests angered immigration reform advocates, who held a small protest outside the federal building in Manchester Monday afternoon.

A "prayerful protest" is scheduled for 4 p.m. today outside the federal building.

Eva Castillo, director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, said the two people arrested in Nashua attended a rally of about 100 faith, labor and community activists in Nashua on Saturday.

"Now, I'm scared for the people who spoke at the rally," she said.

She said the two who attended the rally are Edgar Granados-Torillo, 29, and his uncle, Arnulfo Granados-Torillo, 56. Both are Honduran. The senior Granados-Torillo has been in the country since 1997, and they only have a traffic violation between them, she said. Castillo questioned whether ICE spied on the rally in Nashua on Saturday; only immigrants with proper papers will attend today's protest in Manchester, she said.

"I don't want to run the risk of having anyone identified by these jerks," said Castillo, who is also a Manchester police commissioner.

ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein said the arrests had nothing to do with the rally, and the Granados-Torillo men were released from custody.

Feinstein said the arrests are part of an on-going enforcement action that involves at-large criminal aliens who pose a threat to the community.

"No one is being targeted indiscriminately," Feinstein said. "This is a very targeted immigration action. It's being done to people who have certain criminal convictions that fall into our priorities. We can't deport every person in the country illegally."

In Manchester, about 20 ICE and Manchester police showed up at a private party at El Mexicano Restaurant about 10 p.m. Sunday, said co-owner Lidia Rodriguez. She said agents pushed through the door, gave her sister a hard time when she started photographing them, and threatened to visit her restaurant continuously, a tactic that would scare away her customers.

"This is no good for my business," she said.

The other person who was detained, Ruben Mendez, 19, has been in Manchester for four years, Rodriguez said. He moved to Manchester to make money and send it to his family in Mexico, where his parents are in ill health, she said.

When ICE agents entered her restaurant, Rodriguez told Mendez not to answer their questions, she said. But he became nervous and admitted he is not in the country legally, Rodriguez said.

Feinstein said ICE priorities also involve people who have re-entered the country after deportation and recent arrivals. According to Arnie Alpert of the American Friends Service Committee, the Nashua raid may have violated an April 4 federal court order that said that ICE must no longer conduct warrantless searches in the homes of immigrants suspected of being in the country without authorization.

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