HARTFORD, Conn — Thousands of immigrants from across Connecticut packed the North Steps in front of the State House on Saturday afternoon, joining with labor organizations, community groups, and elected officials to declare that all Connecticut immigrants and refugees are “Here to Stay.”
The Hartford gathering kicked off the largest national mobilization of immigrants and supporters since Donald Trump’s election. Channeling momentum from “day without an immigrant” events around the country, tens of thousands of diverse supporters are now rallying for immigrant rights at events held throughout the May 1 weekend across the nation, all calling for an end to the Trump administration’s inhumane deportation strategy.
“The Trump administration’s systematic attempt to criminalize all undocumented immigrants is a threat to everyone’s civil liberties and this nation’s ideals,” said Juan Hernandez, District Leader of 32BJ SEIU. “Today, thousands of immigrants and allies stood against the administration’s cruel assault by demonstrating our pride in our diverse cultures, and showing why immigrant communities form such a vital part of our social and economic fabric.”
The event featured food trucks and vendors from Caribbean and Latin American countries, dancers, poetry and musical acts, form bachata singer Carlos Javier to a dance performed by Miss CT International, Krishna Parekh. The performances were interspersed with short, forceful stories from local immigrants and declarations of support from community leaders and the state’s highest elected officials.
“We are a nation of immigrants and, here in Connecticut, we celebrate diversity of culture, creed and thought,” said Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. “We value the immense contributions immigrants and refugees bring to our communities and the contributions they make to our economy. Whether your family came to Connecticut three hundred years ago, or three days ago, you are welcome here.”
“Immigrant rights are human rights—and workers’ rights,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. “Our economy is built on the contributions of immigrants—hardworking men and women who come here to work, to start families, and to be free. In Connecticut alone, immigrant-owned businesses employ more than 73,000 people. If we’re serious about growing jobs and supporting workers, we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform now.”
“Throughout our history, incidents of marginalization and bigotry have always been met with progress and resolve,” said U.S. Senator Christopher Murphy in a letter of support. “This rally is a reminder that people of all walks of life, regardless of race, gender, geography, country of origin, or religion, share a common desire to defend each other in the face of discrimination.”
“President Trump’s actions on immigration can be categorized as cruel and un-American,” said Congressman John Larson. “What makes America great is our ability to open our doors and help those in their time of need, regardless of their religion or race. Reforming our immigration system does not mean just closing down our borders and tearing families apart. It should be done in a manner that reflects our values as a nation of immigrants and done in a bipartisan, comprehensive way. “
The event stressed the importance of local action to resist the crackdown on immigrants. Speakers raised the example of Luis Barrios, a Derby resident and the sole provider for his US-citizen wife and four children who was recently detained for deportation after a routine immigration check-in. Luis fears that his life is in danger if he returns to his home country of Guatemala, where numerous family members have been murdered. Supporters noted that he may be deported as early as May 4, and spread the word about his case (see www.facebook.com/events/315838768835024).
“Many immigrants are now living in a fear, no matter their status,” said 32BJ member and Guatemalan immigrant Mara Morales. “Many of us came to this country to escape circumstances that often threatened our very survival. In our countries, we tried to become invisible to protect ourselves. But now, we must stand up and speak out about our stories, our hopes for a better future and our commitment to our families and communities, in order to fight this terrible mistreatment.”
Other speakers reiterated that city and state policies as well as the federal constitution clearly distinguish between the roles of local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement.
“For Hartford’s entire history, decade after decade, immigrants have come to our City, enriching our civic life, bringing new traditions, cultures, and aspirations,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “We know the tremendous value immigrants bring to our community and I am proud to stand with them against the anti-immigrant agenda coming out of Washington today. Hartford always has been and always will be a welcoming city.”
Speakers also stressed the importance of pro-immigrant bills at the State House that could further improve the lot of immigrants in Connecticut, including the bipartisan HB 7000 and SB 17. These bills would allow undocumented students access to an institutional financial aid pool they already contribute to through their tuition.
“Our undocumented students have and will continue to have our unwavering support,” said CSCU President Mark Ojakian. “They are our neighbors and friends who have grown up in Connecticut and are a valued part of the CSCU community. We want to ensure they have access to the high quality education needed to continue contributing to our state’s economy and unique public life.”
The diversity of the immigrant community was plain for all to see at the event, but the speakers on stage also stressed an underlying unity between different immigrant populations.
“West Indian immigrants are typically hard working and ambitious individuals who migrated to the United States in hopes of a better education and future for our families,” said Jennifer Mighty, Treasurer of the West Indian Foundation. “West Indians face the same problems of discrimination and targeting as our Latino brothers and sisters, and we need to demonstrate common resistance to this administration’s anti-immigrant assault. According to the Perryman Group, undocumented immigrants alone account for over $6 billion in economic activity in Connecticut — activity that benefits everyone. Our importance should not be underestimated, and neither should our strength.”
The sentiment was rounded out by other community leaders, including Ingrid Alvarez, Hispanic Federation Connecticut State Director:
“Hispanic Federation is deeply troubled by the Trump administration’s criminalization of all undocumented immigrants, most of whom have long been productive members of our communities. Although the assault affects immigrants from all countries, Latinos have borne the brunt of the harsh deportation tactics that have brought ICE agents to schoolyards, hospitals and local courts in the past few months. Today, we are heartened to see the breadth and depth of opposition to the administration’s attacks, and we pledge to stand beside ALL of our immigrants until justice and decency prevail.”
“This political moment we are in has allowed more and more people to realize that the abuses and violence all people of color face are interconnected,” said Eric Cruz Lopez, C4D Community Organizer and Programming Coordinator, and an MC of the event, along with Shanique Reid . “The attacks on our community are not siloed, so the responses from our community can’t be either. That’s why we will continue organizing to protect people in our communities, so that we can all live a life with dignity and a life without fear. This is our home and we will not be pushed out. We are #HereToStay and organizing to win! For people who are motivated by today’s actions, we invite you to join immigrants and allies in organizing for a better future. For C4D, this starts with our #AffordToDream campaign to equalize access to institutional aid for undocumented students”
In a statement, the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance summarized the day’s mood of resilience. “This administration’s criminalization of immigrants is a textbook example of populism at its ugliest — a way to blame others for every problem. On the May Day weekend, we assert that immigrants, regardless of status, are essential to our economy, our culture, our national identity. The assault on us threatens to spread to all people of color, to the LGBTQ community, to women, to union members and working people. But today we jointly pledge to fight until this assault comes to an end.”
Here to Stay Sponsors
32BJ SEIU Connecticut; 1199 SEIU New England; The 4Cs SEIU 1973; Action Together CT; American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut; AFT Connecticut; Amistad United Church of Christ; Answer Coalition CT; Black and Latino Caucus of the CT State Legislature; Center for Latino Progress; Connecticut AFL-CIO; Connecticut Center for a New Economy; Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA); Connecticut Students for a Dream; Council of American Islamic Relations Connecticut (CAIR-CT); CT NOW; Fight for $15; Hispanic Federation; Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services; Make the Road CT; Moral Mondays CT; New Haven’s Peoples Center; New Haven Rising; North United Methodist Church;Our Revolution CT Team; Planned Parenthood of Southern New England; Rehoboth Church of God, SEIU-State Council; Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ); South Windsor Alliance for Progress (SWAP); Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA); UAW Region 9A; Working Families Party