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State Activists, Union Workers Rally In Hartford For Immigration Reform


April 10, 2013

HARTFORD We are immigrants, they chanted in Spanish. Not criminals.

On an overcast Wednesday afternoon, mothers pushing strollers joined community activists, college students and hundreds of union workers who marched down Main Street and to the state Capitol in support of reforming the nation's immigration laws.

"This is not about Latinos... this is about all of us," said Yanil Teron, executive director of Hartford's Center For Latino Progress, facing a large crowd outside the Old State House that included Caribbean immigrants and members of the Connecticut Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission.

Hartford's march and a rally in Stamford coincided with a major demonstration Wednesday in Washington, D.C., where thousands of immigrant rights activists and allies, including civil rights and labor organizations, planned to descend on Capitol Hill for what was billed as a National Rally for Citizenship to influence lawmakers during a crucial time.

Bipartisan House and Senate groups have been crafting immigration bills that could be introduced within the next week. Connecticut's congressional delegation has advocated for comprehensive reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who are in the country illegally.

Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance a coalition of community, labor, student and faith groups held five rallies this week around the state to push for reform and to demand a moratorium on deportations and "raids" that activists say are splitting families apart.

Since Saturday, federal immigration authorities have arrested 27 immigrants in the state who likely face deportation.

Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed Wednesday that officers with the agency's Enforcement and Removal Operations have conducted "ongoing enforcement action" that he said targets "at-large, criminal aliens and others who pose threats to the community."

Feinstein added that "ICE has adopted clear priorities that call for the agency's enforcement resources to be focused on the identification and removal of those that have broken criminal laws, recently crossed our border, or repeatedly violated immigration laws." He declined further comment until ICE's operation is complete.

Hundreds turned out for pro-immigration rallies Tuesday in Bridgeport, Danbury and New Haven, organizers said, although Wednesday's march in Hartford appeared to be the largest. Many of the demonstrators belonged to Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ and wore T-shirts with the message, "Time is now!"

Some residents at bus stops nodded their heads in solidarity as marchers walked down Main Street's southbound lanes with police escorts. People stood on a City Hall balcony and took cellphone photos, while Mayor Pedro Segarra briefly left the city's budget talks to shout roadside encouragement.

"This country was built on the blood, sweat, tears and money of its immigrants," Segarra said. "And it's unfair that we are breaking up families.... Immigrants only make our country stronger."

Ciro Gutierrez, a 60-year-old janitor and father of three, said he came to the U.S. from Peru in 1994 and received legal residency five years ago. He has applied for citizenship, but "in the beginning, I worked without papers," Gutierrez said. "I know how it is to suffer. I know how it is to live in fear."

Marchers received a friendly reception when they reached the state Capitol for a rally. A group of Democrats, including House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey of Hamden, pledged to support their cause, including proposed state legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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