Residents speak in favor of immigrant-friendly law
Published Aug 2, 2008 7:29 AM
Is defending the rights of undocumented immigrants an issue that only concerns
[email protected] or only immigrants? Not if the July 21 public hearing before the
Hartford, Conn., city council was any indication.
Nearly 150 people packed the sweltering council chambers for more than two
hours as speaker after speaker urged the passage of an immigrant-friendly city
ordinance that would bar police or any other city employees from asking
residents about or providing information about immigration status to the
More than forty speakers, including whites, [email protected], African-Americans, West
Indians and South Asians, repeatedly called on the city to respect and protect
Hartford’s racial and cultural diversity with a law that would affirm
that all city residents have equal rights to access services and participate in
the community. Not a single person in the room spoke against the ordinance.
Among the most compelling speakers at the public hearing was Cesar Torres, a
Peruvian immigrant who was deported in 2002 after he reported a murder to the
Hartford Police Department. Both Torres and his attorney, Kristin Hoffman,
described how his efforts to get justice for a friend led to his being
separated for four years from his wife and newborn baby.
Several courageous undocumented immigrants who openly gave their names when
testifying described Hartford immigrants living in rat-infested apartments
without heat. Landlords threatened to turn them over to Immigration and Customs
Enforcement if they complained about these inhumane conditions.
Others spoke of employers who refused to pay wages that were owed and
threatened to call the police if workers tried to hold them accountable. All
the speakers emphasized that barring city police and other city employees from
asking about immigration status would help to dispel some of the fear that
keeps immigrant families living in the shadows.
The campaign for the ordinance was initiated by the Hartford Immigrant Rights
Coalition, led by Hartford Areas Rally Together, and included the Center for
Collaborative Justice, American Friends Service Committee, National Lawyers
Guild, ACORN and others.
The ordinance was introduced by Luis Cotto, who was elected last November on
the Working Families Party ticket. Working Families holds two of the nine
council seats, the Democratic Party holds six, and the Republican Party only
one. All but the one Republican council member have indicated their intent to
vote for the ordinance.
If the ordinance is passed at the next city council meeting on Aug. 11,
Hartford will be the second Connecticut city to affirm the rights of immigrant
residents to equal treatment. Last year, New Haven introduced an Elm City ID
Card that permits all residents to obtain an identification card that can be
used to access city services as well as for other purposes. Immigrant activists
and solidarity advocates say that a success in Hartford will increase the
momentum for similar measures by other cities.
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