DOVER — The 2019 Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice arrived outside the Strafford County jail on Saturday afternoon in a call for immigrant justice in New Hampshire.
The group descended on the House of Corrections as it is home to the only Immigration and Customs Enforcement-contracted facility in the state. The jail houses roughly 100 immigrant detainees going through federal court processes.
Eva Costillo, formerly of Venezuela and now living in Manchester, is director for the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees and joined the march.
“We are here because we want to put a stop to detention and deportation, Costillo said. “It’s time to use our tax dollars and invest in other programs. Also, we are there to see that laws are changed so that it is easier to come to the U.S.”
Nancy Clingan of Brattleboro said “the darker the skin ... the harder it is to get in ... it’s a moral and human rights issue.”
The walk saw people begin journeys on foot in Concord, Kittery, Maine, Boston and Montpelier, Vermont. The New Hampshire walk began Wednesday from the U.S. District Court in concord and covered 36 total miles.
The walk was led by Mercy Cuellar, 38, who is originally from El Salvador. She said she walked because her undocumented community is paralyzed, she said.
“I am not afraid to be deported,” Cuellar said through a translator during the leg through Lee Friday night. “It could happen today or tomorrow. I’m not afraid. Someone has to put their face out there. My undocumented community is paralyzed by fear.”
Cuellar, her husband and their daughter entered the U.S. five years ago, and live in Manchester.
According to county records, Strafford County received $3,358,844 in 2018 for housing ICE detainees. Two weeks ago, the facility housed 95, 87 men and 8 women, many of whom were from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Ecuador, Ghana and other African countries.
“There is a heightened sense of urgency because this administration is using all of the tools available to ramp up the cruelty, ramp up the pain for immigrant families,” said Maggie Fogarty, of the American Friends Service Committee.
This week, it was announced that the Trump administration is proposing changes to the Flores settlement agreement, amendments that would allow undocumented families to be detained indefinitely, an attempt to deter migrants from crossing the southern border. Trump has also stated recently he seeks to end birthright citizenship.
Costillo estimated about 500 people headed to the Strafford County jail Saturday.
The walk from Concord to Dover was broken up by nightly stops along the way at the South Congregational Church in Concord, the Northwood Congregational Church, and the Lee Congregational Church.