Hundreds rally in Connecticut to “Defend Our Immigrant Communities”
Tom Connolly / PW

HARTFORD, Conn.—Local rallies to “Defend Our Immigrant Communities” took place across the country this week in conjunction with a national action by immigrant students and their allies in the nation’s capital to demand passage of a Clean Dream Act before the end of the year.

In Connecticut, union and community organizations joined with immigrant groups and elected officials in Hartford and Stamford, including SEIU 32 BJ, UNITE HERE, Connecticut Students For a Dream, Make the Road, and the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance.

Over 200 rallied outside the Hartford Federal Courthouse, where the local office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is located. In Stamford, a rally was held in front of the Judicial Court House. In both cities, the mayors joined in and spoke out in support.

The actions demanded that Congress act now in the wake of the Trump administration’s ongoing attacks on immigrant communities and its withdrawal of protected status for immigrant students and those who have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

“A vote on any funding bill that does not include the Dream Act is a vote to deport thousands of immigrant young people. 122 immigrant youth are losing their DACA protections every day—our community can’t wait any longer,” said Camila Bortolleto, co-founder of Connecticut Students for a Dream who will receive the People’s World Amistad Award with her twin sister Carolina Bortolleto at a ceremony on December 9.

The rallies also supported immigrants across Connecticut targeted for deportation by the current administration, including several who are living in sanctuary in churches in New Haven, Meriden, and New Britain, refusing to be separated from their families.

“Congress must pass the Dream Act and come together for true bipartisan discussion on comprehensive immigration reform,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, adding, “I will continue this gravely important and crucial fight against the heartless, immoral, and unconscionable deportations and cruel decisions of this administration.”

“We have the case of Luis Barrios, Nuria Chavarria, Marco Reyes, the Ramos family, Nelson P, Mariana, how many more? How many more families are we going to have to advocate for?” asked Jesus Morales Sanchez, statewide organizer for the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA). “They are part of the 11 million. It’s not just for 800,000 DACA recipients, not for a few hundred thousand TPS recipients, but for all of the immigrants endangered. We must work for all 11 million.”

In recent months, Blumenthal has advocated for those in sanctuary, leaving Washington D.C. on several occasions and rushing back at critical moments. Minutes after he arrived at the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven for a Thanksgiving lunch with Marco Reyes, who had been there in sanctuary since July, a call came from his lawyer that his case would be re-opened by the Second Circuit Court and he could now return home and live with his family.

Tears of joy filled the room. Just one week later, with the support of Unidad Latina en Acción, Nelson Pinos made the decision to take sanctuary in the church as he too was ordered to leave the country and abandon his wife and three children.

Immigrant communities have been confronting a series of attacks and setbacks, particularly the termination of DACA and TPS for Haitians and Nicaraguans. Tens of thousands of other TPS holders face uncertainty as the renewal deadlines loom. As speakers made clear, Congress can pass the Dream Act for immigrant youth and a solution for the 300,000 TPS holders who have long made America their home.

The Hartford rally highlighted support for Wesleyan University janitor Francisco Acosta. The former high school teacher and union organizer left Colombia in 2001 in fear for his life after the murder of several colleagues in his nation’s bloody civil war. Although Acosta’s asylum petition failed, he was granted work authorization and a stay of removal under two different administrations. But at his annual check-in under the new Trump administration this November, Acosta was told to return to ICE on December 18 with a one-way plane ticket to Colombia.

“I have paid all my taxes since I arrived here; I have a clean record,” said Francisco Acosta through the translation of Wesleyan student Belen Rodriguez. “I do not understand why my petition for asylum failed, and why I face this new trouble. I thank all those who have come forward to my defense over the past few weeks.”

“Francisco, along with the many other custodial workers on our campus, is a part of the Wesleyan community, just as much as we are, and he plays an essential role in helping students succeed,” said Rodriguez and fellow Wesleyan junior Emma Llano. “We, Wesleyan students, will continue to fight with and for Francisco and his right to stay in this country.”

State Rep. Edwin Vargas addresses demonstrators. | Tom Connolly / PW

“What burns me is that our President likes some immigrants—he married two of them—but he wants to deport Haitians, he wants to deport Latinos. A party has been hijacked by hate, by bigotry, by xenophobia,” said State Rep. Ed Vargas, of Hartford. “While we have a democracy, we have to constantly fight to maintain it. That’s why we need to be here.”

Speaking in Stamford, Alberto Bernardez, Assistant Supervisor of SEIU 32BJ in Connecticut, emphasized, “We all fear for the grim fate that awaits thousands of TPS and DACA recipients if Congress fails to act. But we also must raise our voices in protest against the deportation of immigrants like Nelson Pinos and our member Francisco Acosta, who is the sole caretaker for his ill mother, a U.S. citizen.”

“We cannot stay quiet when these injustices occur. We must raise our voices and say enough is enough,” concluded Bernardez.

Stamford State Rep. Caroline Simmons agreed. “My heart goes out to families across the country who are living in fear every day that they will separated from their children who have grown up in the U.S. since they were little. Stamford has a proud tradition of welcoming immigrants from all different backgrounds, and we will continue to stand up for and fight for our immigrant community here in Stamford and across Connecticut,” she said.

“It was with great relief that I accepted Temporary Protected Status after the devastating hurricane in Honduras in 1998,” said Fausto Canelas, a member of 32BJ SEIU, resident of Bridgeport, and recipient of TPS for 19 years. “I have built a life here and helped provide for my family back home. We’re asking the President and Congress to recognize the tremendous disruptions in our lives, in our communities and in the economies of the United States and our home countries if TPS is ended.”


Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.