Sandra Scribner Merlim, whose husband, Otto Morales-Caballeros, was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, speaks during Monday’s rally. The crowd booed when she said how agents arrested her husband on his way to work. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

When Sandra Scribner Merlim described the way U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested her husband on his way to work one April morning, more than 200 people gathered in Congress Square Park on Monday erupted with boos.

“He’s such a decent, hardworking man, and he doesn’t deserve this,” Merlim said, wiping tears from her eyes.

Otto Morales-Caballeros, 37, of Naples was detained near his home by immigration agents on April 12. The crowd gathered in downtown Portland on Monday evening to protest such detentions, which have increased under President Trump’s administration.

Organized by the Maine People’s Alliance, the rally was part of a nationwide movement. In cities across the country, tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters marched and rallied Monday to mark May Day and to protest Trump’s immigration policies and deportation efforts.

May 1 has traditionally been a day of worldwide demonstration in support of workers. In recent years, it has also become a rallying point for immigrants in the United States.

Protesters hold signs during Monday’s rally for immigrants at Congress Square Park. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

In Maine, Morales-Caballeros was one of at least two people arrested last month by federal agents.

An ICE spokesman said Morales-Caballeros was arrested on an outstanding removal order issued in 2010 by a federal immigration judge, and he was convicted in 2013 on federal charges of felony use of fraudulent documents.

Merlim previously told the Portland Press Herald that her husband came to the United States from Guatemala alone without legal documentation as a teenager. Immigration officials told Morales-Caballeros he would not be deported if he stayed out of legal trouble, she said.

Abdi Ali, a 28-year-old Westbrook man, was detained April 6 at a Portland courthouse after a hearing on a misdemeanor drunken-driving charge, which is not typically considered a deportable offense. ICE agents gave Ali a document that cites a 2013 misdemeanor conviction for cocaine possession as grounds for deportation. Ali came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia when he was 7 and has lawful permanent resident status.

Both Ali and Morales-Caballeros were taken to the Cumberland County Jail when they were first detained. They are now in the Strafford County Jail in New Hampshire because it is the nearest federally contracted detention center. An official at the jail confirmed that the men are being held there but declined to provide any further details. An ICE spokesman did not provide new information about their cases Monday.

Hundreds attend Monday’s rally for immigrants at Congress Square Park in Portland. Speakers included Sue Roche, executive director of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project; Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, an organizer with the Maine People’s Alliance; and Mutima Peter, pastor of Bethel Christian Center in Westbrook. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

At Monday’s rally, speakers included Sue Roche, executive director of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project; Pastor Mutima Peter of Bethel Christian Center in Westbrook; and other members of the local immigrant community. The crowd followed a chant in Spanish led by local members of Movimiento Cosecha, a national grassroots Latino organization that supports immigrants.

Many of the speakers encouraged the audience to contact their elected officials and advocate for policies that benefit immigrants.

“We are gathered here along with thousands of people in cities across the country to demonstrate the power, resilience and strength of immigrant communities in America,” said Magnifique Butoto, an organizer with the Maine People’s Alliance.

When Merlim first took the microphone, her voice was quiet and nervous. As she spoke, she became louder and more confident. She shouted her final word – “Resist.”

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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