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Forum Monday to explore issues with resettling refugees


LACONIA — As present global conflicts are forcing millions of individuals to flee their home countries, nations around the world are opening their borders to refugees in need of a place to resettle. Recognizing that Laconia has been one of the cities in New Hampshire welcoming refugees for the past 20 years, the Laconia Human Relations Committee is hosting an educational refugee resettlement roundtable forum in Laconia which will allow community members to better understand the process of resettlement in the region.
The forum will be held on Monday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m., at the Woodside Building at the Taylor Community. The forum aims to educate citizens on why refugee resettlement occurs and the process individuals must go through to get refuge in the United States. Carol Pierce, director of the Laconia Human Relations Committee, will facilitate a conversation with local refugees who have first hand accounts of how the process works in our region.
One individual speaking about his experience as a refugee is Seifu Ragassa, who arrived in the United States in 1999. Prior to his resettlement, Ragassa worked as a journalist in Ethiopia. However, due to his politically charged articles, he was forced to flee his country to escape persecution from the government. Seeking refuge in Kenya, Ragassa worked with the United States embassies and was able to assist in finding terrorists in Africa, until he was able to resettle as a refugee in the Lakes Region, where he has since continued to live and work.
"Coming to the United States as a refugee was a challenge," said Ragassa. "There was limited transportation and resources, and even though I had a college degree abroad, I could only get an entry-level job when I entered the United States. It definitely was not an easy transition."
Despite the initial challenges, Ragassa worked countless hours at various jobs and applied to local scholastic institutions to continue his education. Attending Southern New Hampshire University, he studied political science and business, and additionally received his master's degree in justice studies. After completing his educational endeavors, Ragassa was able to secure a job with the New Hampshire Department Corrections - Laconia Facility and continues to work as New Hampshire probation and parole officer, and is presently studying to receive his MBA.
Although Ragassa has acclimated to life in the United States well, he recognizes that integration into the United States is not as smooth for other people. Thus, Ragassa has spent his time in the Lakes Region working with other refugees to help them find jobs and a place in the community.
"It is a hard transition for refugees and often there is a language barrier that makes it hard for people to easily adapt and find jobs," said Ragassa. "But I found that by working with new refugees and connecting them to people like Carol Pierce has made their resettlement a success."
Stories like Ragassa's will be shared at the roundtable forum, specifically discussing what challenges refugees had when they came to the United States and how they overcame them, as well as an informational presentation explaining the difference between immigrants and refugees. The forum is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested by calling 524-5600.

Attorney General steps into Laconia methampetamine case


CONCORD — After all of the evidence in a case against a Laconia man who allegedly had a half of a pound of methamphetamine in his possession was disallowed by a Belknap County Superior Court judge, the state Attorney General has asked the state's highest court for a review.

Attorney General Joseph Foster is challenging the court's determination that the inventory search of the car Peter Dauphin, 42, of Appleton Street was driving in late April of 2015 was not justified, so the evidence found and subsequent statements made could not be used against him.

Foster has asked the Supreme Court to determine Judge Peter Fauver erred when he found Laconia Police conducted a warrantless search of the car. That's because the car never was going to be in police custody, but instead was towed to Dauphin's home about 200 feet away.

Foster is also challenging the court's determination that the search violated Dauphin's constitutional rights because it didn't serve "any important non-investigative government interests."

The Laconia Police towing policy, which is similar to, if not exactly like, other police departments' towing policies, says that vehicles being taken into police custody or that are towed at the request of the police are subject to a non-investigative search so as to protect the police against false claims of theft and to protect the car's driver against theft or damage by either the police or the tow company.

In this case, the court suppressed the discovery of methamphetamine in the car because Dauphin arranged the tow directly with the tow company and paid them to take the car to his home.

The Attorney General is also asking the high court to review the court's exclusion of Dauphin's statements to the police that he had additional methamphetamine in his home. These statements were made to the police after his arrest and Fauver suppressed them under the "fruits of the poisonous tree doctrine," which means that if he had not been arrested he never would have made the statements.
Foster argues that police obtained a warrant for the search of his home.

The case is currently on hold at the Belknap County Superior Court until the Supreme Court rules on the suppression issues.

At the time Dauphin was arrested, police determined the plates to his car belongs to a man who had sold the car to Dauphin and confiscated them, leading to the tow. Dauphin asked police if he could tow the car to his house and police agreed that they didn't need to impound it. After speaking with a duty sergeant, the officers did an inventory search and found about half ounce of methamphetamine in a sunglass holder-type bag under the front seat. After he was read his Miranda Rights and arrested, Dauphin allegedly told police there was more methamphetamine in his home and where they could find it.

Gilmanton crash on Route 106 sends one man to hospital

GILMANTON — An older man was taken to Concord Hospital by ambulance Friday after he crashed into a car that was in the breakdown lane on Route 106.

Police said there were two vehicles in the breakdown lane. One had broken down earlier in the morning and the people in second car stopped behind it were relatives of the driver of the first car who had come to help.

The crash happened around 3:30 p.m.

"Fortunately, all of the people who were out of their cars were near the first car and not in the second one," said Sgt. Casey Brennan.

He said the man continued to drive several hundred feet before he went off the road again.

Traffic was slowed through the area, which is very busy with the NASCAR race weekend at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but he said it kept moving because of the assistance of Gilford, Belmont and the New Hampshire State Police.

Brennan said the crash is still under investigation but said it is likely medical issues were the primary cause. No one else was injured.

– Gail Ober