Bridgeport joins in rally for immigration reform


Participants in the march prepare to step off from St. John’s Episcopal Church to rally outside City Hall Annex.

As the bipartisan Senate committee announced that its proposed immigration bill may be finalized this week, hundreds of immigrants, supporters and elected officials converged on April 9, to call for a bill that includes an accessible path to citizenship, keeps families together, raises standards for all working people and strengthens our economy.

Organized by the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, rallies calling for commonsense immigration reform to be passed this year took place in Danbury, New Haven and Bridgeport on April 9, and took place in Stamford and Hartford on April 10. The actions come as part of a nationwide movement to keep the pressure on Congress and President Obama to act quickly on this important issue affecting 11 million people and their families.

Tens of thousands also rallied on the West Lawn in Washington, D.C., on April 10, after thousands of people rallied across the country over the weekend to kick off the week of action.

“Our strides in Connecticut have pioneered social and economic reform for immigrants, but we must keep our eyes on the prize,” said Kurt Westby, vice president and state director of 32BJ SEIU in Connecticut, a member of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance. “United as one voice, we will be heard in Washington, D.C.: Congress and President Obama must pass commonsense immigration reform this year — in 2013 — or they will hear from us at the voting polls.”

Recent local victories spearheaded by CIRA have addressed civil rights issues for immigrants and their families. On March 26, the Hartford City Council passed a resolution calling for the creation of a task force to establish a Commission on Immigrant Affairs, a result of months of advocacy on behalf of the Alliance and other local partners. CIRA affiliates are currently promoting state drivers’ licenses for undocumented motorists to improve road safety and the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools Act, a new standard in compliance with the federal deportation program Secure Communities that restores trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement.

“Here in the City of New Haven, we have done what we can to address immigration and ensure a welcoming vity that is safe and where all are allowed to contribute,” New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said to hundreds on the New Haven Green. “It is time for the federal government to act on this important issue. We all must do our part to ensure that our senators and representatives pass immigration reform that makes sense, that doesn’t tear our families apart and that recognizes the important contributions that immigrants have always made to this country.”

Gerson Guerrero, a 32BJ member who emigrated from Venezuela, told the crowd in Bridgeport, “I know as a worker that commonsense immigration reform would reinforce our rights at the workplace, bringing so many out of the shadows and ending many unfair labor practices, like wage theft, that prevail in our immigrant communities.”

“Our immigrant community in Danbury is very diverse and very vibrant,” said Carolina Bortolleto of the Hispanic Center for Greater Danbury to the immigration reform supporters in that city. “We are the lifeblood of our city, with immigrants making up 35% of our population. Today we marched down Main Street, a living testament to the entrepreneurial spirit and the economic benefit and impact of fully integrating immigrants into our communities.”

Camila Bortolleto of Connecticut Students for a DREAM also addressed the Danbury rally, “As DREAMers, we’re standing alongside our parents to push for a permanent solution from Congress that gives us all a chance to earn our citizenship. Our families and our communities need and deserve a pathway to citizenship and safety.”

The Connecticut Immigration Rights Alliance is a statewide coalition founded to improve the lives of the state’s diverse immigrant community through non-partisan civic engagement, public education, and advocacy for workable, fair and humane immigration policies.

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