met with Milford Selectmen Wednesday, and pledged to continue to work with town officials to address issues surrounding illegal immigration.
But they proposed nothing specific as an immediate solution to the pressures facing Milford, leaving many in the audience of 200 residents dissatisfied. The meeting was held upstairs at , after the selectmen's meeting room exceeded its capacity.
Attending on behalf of the Ecuadorian government were Beatriz G. Almeida Stein, Ecuador's consul general in Boston, and Pablo Calle, Ecuador's administrator of immigration for 49 states, including Massachusetts.
After walking into the meeting, they shook hands and spoke with the family of Matthew Denice, who Milford police say was killed Aug. 20 by an Ecuadorian citizen who was driving while intoxicated, and living in the United States illegally.
Almeida Stein spoke only briefly, telling officials she had requested the meeting, "to talk to you, to see how we can work together." The Ecuadorians living in Milford, she said, need to understand the rules and the laws, and abide by them.
"They are here and they have to respect the laws," she said.
In comments he made, at greater length, Calle said the solutions to illegal immigration are complex, and will include changing the economics that are encouraging people to leave Ecuador. "You know the reality of immigration, people move to other countries because they don't have opportunities where they are leaving."
For those who would suggest that Ecuadorians who are in the U.S. illegally should "leave overnight," Calle said: "That is something that is not in our hands. Even if we wanted to do it. "
The comments of the officials sometimes frustrated some in the audience, who occasionally cat-called, or called out in anger.
The family of , interviewed following the meeting, said they felt the officials' visit was intended to relieve pressure on the Ecuadorian community — not to offer concrete solutions. They were also upset that the officials arrived 30 minutes late to the session.
"If they have no action plan, if they don't have any authority to change anything, why were they here tonight?" said Michael Denice, 25, Matthew's older brother.
"They're here so they could smooth things over," he said. "I think they came here to take pressure off the Ecuadorian community."
Maureen Maloney, Matthew's mother, said more of a disincentive is needed for people who are arrested for driving without a license — one of the many charges facing Nicolas Dutan Guaman, who has been charged in her son's death.
She described her family as "broken" by the death of her youngest son. "I hope we get justice for Matt," she said. "[But] nothing is going to bring my son back."
Milford officials said they hoped the meeting would begin a process of communication, and encouraged the Ecuadorian officials to meet with local officials individually, to help resolve some of the pressures on the community, in areas such as housing, the court system, and public safety.
Milford Police estimate about 2,000 Ecuadorians are living in Milford, a town of about 25,000 according to the .
Dino DeBartolomeis, chairman of the Milford Selectmen, told the officials he wanted to see a followup report within a month, after they meet with officials including Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin, Schools Superintendent Robert Tremblay, and other community representatives.
The 45-minute meeting — which came at the request of Almeida Stein — will begin a process of better communication, DeBartolomeis said.
The town, he told them, is a proud, tightknit community built on waves of immigration.
"We have a problem with illegal immigration," he said. "We have a problem with people excessively drinking. We have a problem with people driving without licenses. And we have a problem with people who are here illegally, doing illegal activities."
Prior to the meeting, a crowd estimated at 200 people stood outside Milford Town Hall, in a drenching rain, to protest illegal immigration.
The demonstrators included Maureen Laquerre, whose brother, Richard Grossi, was killed in 2009, she said, in a collision with a woman who was later deported, without serving a sentence in the U.S.
Laquerre said she didn't care if it was pouring. She held a sign, with a photograph of her brother, and a message expressing frustration over a lack of justice in his case. She came "to support [the family of Matthew Denice]. To see that the same thing doesn't happen. That this [Nicolas Dutan] Guaman be prosecuted for this."