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Hartford: Rally to focus on immigrants' rights

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  • Peter S. Lopez de Aztlan
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    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2006
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      September 30, 2006
      Rally to focus on immigrants' rights
      By Vesna Jaksic
      Staff Writer
       
      Partly in response to a number of raids by immigration officials nationwide in recent months, including arrests of 11 day laborers in Danbury last week, immigrants' advocacy groups are preparing to rally in Hartford tomorrow.
       
      About a dozen pro-immigration groups in Connecticut, including a union representing building workers in Stamford, plan to demonstrate at the Capitol. Organizers said they hope the demonstration will be the first such event since the spring, when similar rallies gained momentum in the state and across the country.
       
      Congress did not pass legislation many immigration advocates have been pushing for, such as a bill that would provide a path toward legalization for many of the nation's estimated 12 million undocumented aliens. In the meantime, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stepped up its raids, arresting workers who are in the country illegally and their employers.
       
      "In Connecticut, we didn't see these raids before but right now we're seeing more raids," said John Lugo, a member of the Regional Coalition of Immigrant Rights, a statewide group that is one of the event's sponsors. "That's why we decided to put on the march and tried to put the community together."
       
      One such raid occurred in Danbury last Tuesday, when ICE agents arrested 11 day laborers. ICE has in the past targeted undocumented aliens with criminal backgrounds, but this seems to be the first group arrest in the state of undocumented aliens without a criminal record, officials said.
       
      Paula Grenier, a Boston-based spokeswoman for ICE, said none of the men had criminal backgrounds, but all were in the country illegally.
       
      "We make arrests every day for individuals who violate immigration laws and we do make arrests of those in the country illegally who do not have criminal records," she said.
       
      The men, who are all from Ecuador, were waiting for a hearing by a federal immigration judge in Hartford, she said.
       
      ICE agents acted on a tip from Danbury police, Grenier said. Capt. Robert Myles, a spokesman for the Danbury Police Department, said officers have been warning the laborers for two months not to disrupt traffic while looking for work.
       
      "At some point we contacted ICE agents to help us see if we can solve this problem," Myles said. "It's common knowledge through our dealings within the police force that many of these people down there are of illegal status."
       
      Immigration is a federal law that is enforced by federal authorities. But in cities such as Danbury, which have large immigrant groups, some police departments have increasingly been contacting federal agents. Stamford's mayor and police chief have maintained that local officers should not enforce federal law.
       
      Tomorrow's rally, which is scheduled for 2 p.m., is also meant to be an anti-war demonstration. Many pro-immigration groups are also against the war in Iraq, so they have decided to combine the two causes, said Khalil Iskarous, secretary of the Middle East Crisis Committee, a New Haven-based group that is one of the rally's sponsors.
       
      "I'm a U.S. citizen but I'm an immigrant and very much believe that exploitation is wrong, which is, I think, what's happening to undocumented immigrants," he said. "They come here because we need them -- but we exploit them by not giving them documents. So we wanted to do our first sort of unity march and rally against war and exploitation."
       
      Connecticut has from 70,000 to 100,000 undocumented aliens, according to estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center.
       
      Art Perry, the Connecticut political director for Service Employees International Union Local 32 BJ, which represents many building workers in Stamford, said the union plans to have a presence at the rally because it wants immigration reform so that workers' rights are protected.
       
      Paul Streitz, who heads Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control, which has been the state's most outspoken group against immigration, did not return a call for comment Thursday. But in last Friday's e-mail from his organization, Streitz praised the Danbury arrests.
       
      "Congratulations to the hardworking Danbury police force and ICE," the e-mail stated. "They want to protect the people of the city and the nation. They are prevented from doing their jobs by mayors and other government officials who want to turn Danbury into a Third World slum and the United States into a Third World nation."
       
      Local Hispanic leaders have said pro-immigration rallies have helped unite the area's immigrants.
       
      "That has been very energizing and I think it has given us some identity as a group," said Juan Pazmino, a Stamford resident who chairs the Education Committee of the Hispanic Initiative, an effort by area community leaders to address issues affecting Hispanics. "It also has given education to many people who are very unaware of certain regulations and laws that are affecting them. So by attending all these meetings and rallies, they understand they also have a right and they are a force."
       
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      Peter S. Lopez ~aka Peta
       


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