The sudden rise of Nicaraguan immigrants in New Bedford

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NEW BEDFORD — Nicaragua scored poorly, 167th out of 180 countries, on the Corruption Perception Index carried out annually by the organization Transparency International. In the study, it appears very close to Venezuela (177), Honduras (157), and Guatemala (150). The country led by Daniel Ortega and his wife has been falling steadily. 

Marvin Benavides did not know this, but he does know what it means to live in a country where you risk your life for thinking differently than the regime in power. Nine months ago, he left Nicaragua. “They threatened me for criticizing the president of my country on social media,” said Benavides, one of the 26 Nicaraguans who recently settled in New Bedford.


Most of them come from the province of León, in western Nicaragua. Recently, Benavides was able to bring his wife Silvana and his son Heytan to the U.S. Other Nicaraguans are trying to do the same as they begin a long process to apply for asylum in the crowded Massachusetts courts.

Immigration lawyer Rebecca Eissenova, who gave a talk to immigrants at Saint Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford, said there is a crisis because there are not enough lawyers to represent all the immigrants that are arriving in the country.

In the case of Nicaraguans, their presence in the U.S. has increased dramatically, she explained, noting that the number Nicaraguans entering the country last year was roughly 180,000 or about 60 times the number recorded in 2020.

That same day, Duglas Muñoz, a nurse in Nicaragua, arrived in the city. He looked tired.

Duglas currently works in construction, along with most of his compatriots. They rent an apartment on County Street where about seven people live. In Nicaragua, where he left behind his wife and a son, he witnessed friends being killed by police.

“There was a demonstration against the government, and the police arrived shooting. They were in the street and were hit by bullets.”

Eissenova explained that asylum procedures must begin within one year of entering the country. You do not need to be represented by an attorney, she said. Those interested can do so directly in court or by accessing the documentation on the official website of the U.S. Immigration Service.

She said to beware of a notary scam where certain notaries offer to carry out legal procedures. Unlike Central and South American countries, notaries in the U.S. are not always lawyers, and their function is limited to validating documents and signatures.

Gerardo Beltrán Salinas is a Chilean journalist in New Bedford.

Editor’s Note: This article was amended on Feb. 25, 2023, to more accurately describe the number of Nicaraguans entering the U.S. in recent years, as cited by immigration lawyer Rebecca Eissenova.

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