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April 07. 2013 1:30AM

Immigration rally in Nashua calls for quick reform, understanding

On a brisk, windy Saturday afternoon, more than 100 people gathered in front of City Hall for a pro-immigration reform rally organized by local unions, nonprofits and faith-based groups.

Starting at City Hall, the rally moved to the Nashua offices of U.S. Sens`Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen, while people chanted in both English and Spanish that no person is inherently illegal, and that immigration reform is needed now.

Eva Castillo, executive director for New Hampshire Alliance of Immigrants and Refugees, fired up the crowd before marching on the senators' offices, saying the time is now for comprehensive immigration reform.

"You can't say that this isn't a New Hampshire issue. This is important, and we don't want to wait anymore," Castillo said.

Devon Chaffee, executive director for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, said that while reform looks probable, now is not the time for activists to let up.

"We need immigration reform that will allow everyone in our society to contribute and not exclude anyone," said Arnie Alpert, N.H. program coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee.

Immigration attorney Enrique Mesa, who also sits on the Governor's Commission on Latino Affairs, said he attended the rally because he has seen firsthand people who were desperate to stay in America deported to their country of origin.

"People here over 20 years can get deported; it happens every day. Reform would let people come out of the shadows and be productive in the economy," Mesa said.

Alejandro Urrutia, a member of Latinos Unidos of New Hampshire, said New Hampshire could benefit from immigration reform because of the state's growing industrial sector.

"Reform will have real impact on families here and on the economy," Urrutia said.

High school students Marisol Saavedra and Juan Zamudio also spoke to the crowd, detailing their life stories and how immigration reform could help them.

Saavedra, a sophomore at Nashua High School South, said reform would allow members of her family, whom she called her support, to stay in America.

Zamudio said he is an example of how immigration to America is a positive thing; his parents brought him to America from Colombia when he was a young boy so he could have greater opportunities.

Now attending The Derryfield School in Manchester as a junior, Zamudio said his accomplishments in education might not have been possible had his family stayed in Colombia.

Sandra Strauss said she is not a member of any pro-immigration group or union, but in her opinion, reform is something that needs to be done quickly.

"I think immigration policies are prejudicial and not very helpful to citizens or immigrants.

"We need to be generous, especially as one of the richest, most powerful nations in the world," Strauss said.

Maria Thyng said immigration reform is important to her because her father was an illegal immigrant who was sent back to Mexico after her parents divorced.

The Rev. Tom Woodward said that he believes reform needs to happen as soon as possible, not just to help immigrants but also to help heal the country because citizens have been sharply divided on the issue.

Gary Schulte, conference minister for the New Hampshire Conference United Church of Christ, said he supports immigration reform because he does not want to see families get split up.

"We need to be sensitive to the immigrants amongst us," Schulte said.

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