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Deerfield PD adopts new policy for dealing with illegal immigrants

By MELISSA PROULX
Union Leader Correspondent
and MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 20. 2017 9:12PM
The wedding photo of Eleazar Lopez Ayala and Maria Cubias. Ayala was detained in August 2017 after getting a flat tire in Deerfield. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

DEERFIELD — Town police officers won’t stop, hold or interrogate someone solely to determine their immigration status, under a police department policy adopted this week following last month’s detention of an illegal immigrant who got a flat tire going through town.

Selectmen approved the two-page policy on Monday at the behest of Police Chief Gary Duquette.

Duquette proposed the policy after the New Hampshire Union Leader reported the detention of Eleazar Lopez Ayala, 40, whose car got a flat on Aug. 4. He asked a Deerfield resident to use the telephone, the resident called police, and police took him to the station and called federal immigration officials.

“It kind of created a stir in town here, which I understand,” Duquette said. No Deerfield officer can recall any similar kind of incident over the last 20 years, he said.

“I just want to make sure there’s something in place in case something like this happens again,” Duquette said.

Ayala, the father of three American-born children and step-father of a fourth, remains in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is waiting for a judge to hear his case, said his stepson, Josue Chavez, an American citizen by birth.

Money raised for family

Meanwhile, town residents who belong to a group named Love Lives Here raised $500 for Ayala’s family last week. This week, it launched a GoFundMe page which raised $2,300 for the family as of Wednesday afternoon.

“We really want to make sure that compassion, empathy and kindness speak for our town,” said April Purinton, a resident of 36 years who worked on the effort. “People feel rattled by seeing this happen in our town.”

In Manchester, Chavez said his younger brothers are taking Ayala’s detainment hard, and he and his mother worry most about paying the $1,200-a-month rent.

“I think it’s a big blessing,” he said about the money raised from Deerfield residents.

He said his teachers at Manchester School of Technology have been supportive and have also offered to help the family.

“I don’t want any family to go through what we’ve gone through,” he said.

Deerfield is a rural town of 4,200 in western Rockingham County, best known for hosting the state’s largest agricultural fair, which begins a week from today.

According to previous reports, Ayala was on a lunch break and drove into town with a co-worker when their tire went flat. When police showed up, Ayala gave a Honduran passport, his co-worker a Mexican ID card.

Neither had a license, and Ayala’s co-worker had a years-old warrant for drunk driving. Police called ICE, who picked them up.

Ayala had crossed into the United States through Mexico at the age of 17. Initially caught on the border, he was released to a relative, never showed up in court and stayed out of trouble.

Cities such as Manchester and Nashua have policies that address how local police should handle the immigration status of people they come in contact with. But other departments don’t; New Hampshire State Police, for example, is working to create a policy.

Deerfield’s policy

Duquette said he based his policy on those from other departments:

The policy states:

• “Officers shall not stop, detain, interrogate, or place an immigration hold on any person solely for the purpose of ascertaining immigration status, or in any other way attempt to enforce federal immigration laws.”

• An officer can only inquire about a person’s citizenship or immigration status when the officer has reasonable suspicion that the person should have immigration credentials. The policy explicitly states that one’s nationality, name or ability to speak English does not constitute reasonable suspicion.

• An officer can inquire about citizenship status if the person’s identity has not been proven through satisfactory means, or if the identity is relevant to the investigation.

• A person written up for a ticket or citation will be released once his identity has been established, regardless of his immigration status.

• Police may notify ICE if the person is being charged with a felony, is charged with a misdemeanor involving violence or a threat to public safety; has been previously deported; is flagged by ICE in the NCIC system for violations of immigration law.

• Any request by ICE for non-emergency police assistance must be approved by the officer in charge.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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