Three years ago, people in Connecticut started talking loudly about something many believed was just a condition experienced by states bordering Mexico.

Undocumented workers found themselves facing the beginning of an anti-immigrant sentiment at some state offices here, particularly the Motor Vehicle Department.

For many years anyone passing the exams in Connecticut was able to get a driver’s license. Since the new waves of immigrants in the 1990s, some authorities started taking the law into their own hands, refusing to provide much-needed driver’s licenses and, on some occasions, calling the Immigration and Naturalization Service about applicants they termed “illegal aliens.”

Things got worse after Sept. 11, 2001.

Some individuals and groups began calling for stronger laws to prevent immigrants from coming to this country. Fortunately, groups that support immigrants’ rights began forming around the state.

Recently, immigrants here have faced renewed attacks, including racial profiling by the police, murders and assaults.

Two months ago, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton asked for a prohibition on playing volleyball outdoors in the city. This was an attack on the city’s Ecuadorian community, which has a strong volleyball tradition.

Boughton went further, asking that state police be deputized as immigration officers. The area’s Republican congresswoman, Nancy Johnson, supported this proposal, which was rejected by Democratic state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

This nasty climate set the stage for the formation of a small anti-immigrant organization, Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control. Some of the group’s leaders had traveled to Arizona to join the Minuteman vigilantes attacking immigrants at the border.

In response, immigrants and their supporters began to come together. The Ecuadorian Civic Center organized meetings, supported by other organizations. They formed DACORIM (Danbury Area Coalition for the Rights of Immigrants) and called for a peaceful march to protest the mayor’s policies. Groups around the state began organizing for the march.

The negative publicity forced the mayor to moderate his aggressive anti-immigrant stance, but he never issued an apology or backed down on his proposal to deputize police officers. After first agreeing to take part in the march, he withdrew, saying participation by the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union and labor organizations made it more than a local Danbury issue.

More than 1,500 people made history June 12 when they marched down Danbury’s Main Street calling for “unity, tolerance and respect for diversity.”

Immigrants, elected officials and activists called for an end to discrimination and for immigration law reform.

At the end of the march, amid flags and patriotic music, speakers talked about the need to bring together all of Danbury’s communities. A message from Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez was more blunt in blaming corporations and the free trade agreements with Latin American countries for destroying economic opportunity there and forcing the poorest of the poor to cross the border.

On July 12, over 100 activists and immigrant workers joined together at a rally co-sponsored by the Western Connecticut Central Labor Council. They marched near the American Legion Hall in Watertown where Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control was meeting. The marchers, undaunted by the watching police, far outnumbered the participants in the anti-immigrant meeting.

Immigrants are human beings, Labor Council Vice President Kit Salazar-Smith told the crowd. Warning that the corporations try to divide workers by saying the immigrants are taking away jobs, she explained, “They move their businesses overseas and exploit the workers there.”

“Everyone here has immigrants in their family history who helped build the United States,” she said.

Assailing the unjust conditions experienced by immigrants today, Salazar-Smith said, “We must join hand in hand with our brothers and sisters and help fight for the respect and justice they deserve.”

As the rally ended, participants chanted, “We will be back,” vowing to gather in greater numbers whenever the anti-immigrant group meets.

These events have shown the need and potential for organization in the immigrant community. The attacks forced immigrants to organize themselves and coalesce. Groups focused on assimilating, as immigrant groups have done in the past, began working alongside groups emphasizing retaining their cultural identity, linking the struggles of citizens in Latin America and in the U.S. and fighting back against anti-immigrant forces.

And as immigrant groups have joined together, solidarity in support of immigrant rights has continued to grow.

John Lugo lives in New Haven and is chair of Unidad Latina en Accion. Dorothy Johnson contributed to this article.