The plea resonated throughout the parking lot of the former Gateway Community College Long Wharf campus. The phrase “not one more deportation” emblazoned a placard in Spanish. Another one read, in capital letters, “We didn’t cross the border. The border crossed us.”
Brandishing these posters and banners, over 50 immigration activists and community members convened at 60 Sargent Dr. Tuesday afternoon to protest Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s dismissal of a federal request to temporarily house up to 2,000 undocumented children from Central America.
The rally stressed the plight of these displaced minors, who have crossed the southern U.S. border often in flight from violence, and called for comprehensive action from Malloy to ensure their well-being in Connecticut. Activists also sought to put a human face on the issue: several Guatemalan children, most of whom crossed the border little over a month ago, spoke up during the event to share their stories of hardship and hopes for asylum.
Activists and community leaders took turns to address the gathering crowd. Alok Bhatt, of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, read off a list of demands that included forming a statewide task force, enforcing the TRUST Act to curb deportations, and making state facilities available other than the old Southbury training school, the site the feds had sought to have Malloy open to 2,000 children. Malloy responded that the facility is too dangerous and an inappropriate place for warehousing people.
“The governor himself has admitted that there are smaller state facilities that are suitable for housing children,” Bhatt said. Organizers held the rally outside the now empty former Gateway building to demonstrate that alternative sites exist. Bhatt told the Independent the rally was not meant to endorse that particular site, but to highlight the existence of unused locations across the state.
Kica Matos, director of immigrant rights & racial justice at the Center for Community Change, commended the efforts of Massachusetts, Vermont and New York — states, she said, that have “gone out of [their] way” to absorb the influx of undocumented children and find them housing.
“And has our governor responded favorably?” Matos asked.
In a statement issued after the rally, Malloy reported that the DCF has so far placed 320 children with families in Connecticut, and that his administration is looking at the possibility of using the old Gateway site. He added: “However, I do not believe that the long-term detention of minors is the appropriate policy.”
“I continue to work closely with the federal government on this important issue,” Malloy reported. “Today, I participated in a conference call with the White House and the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services. It appears that substantial progress has been made to diminish the need for housing children for extended periods in large scale institutional settings. For example, the facility at Nogales now houses 22 children, down from more than 1,000. Much of this work has been accomplished by pursuing the appropriate step of placing children as quickly as possible with relatives, a position that we have advocated for the past week.”
But for John Lugo, of Unidad Latina en Acción, “the DCF move doesn’t make any sense. We don’t need the DCF if there are already families waiting,” he said in an interview at the rally. “It’s demagogy. Some kind of solution that is not a real solution.”
As he talked to the crowd, Lugo (pictured at the top of the story) admonished elected officials at the local and federal level for “playing politics” and worrying more about elections than looking after young immigrants.
Guatemalans Speak Out
Lugo, Matos said, has been attempting to relocate about 30 undocumented Guatemalan mothers and children who have recently come to New Haven to reunite with their loved ones. Children such as Wendy, who spoke into the microphone and said she didn’t want to be thinking every day about returning to the violence in her hometown. Antonia, who pleaded for compassion from the American government.
Or young Edwin (pictured), who said he wanted an opportunity to live in peace.
Then there was Lidia González, a mother carrying her toddler, who asked for a halt to deportations.
“I’m terrified of going back to my country,” she said in Spanish.
Hazel Mencos Jiménez, 13, recounted in an interview how she left Guatemala to escape the menace of gangs and killings. Hazel, pictured, said she traveled all the way to Connecticut without a chaperone, passing through Mexico with little to no food or water.
“Whenever we made stops, drug dealers in our group would threaten to kidnap us, and other people in the group wouldn’t let that happen,” she said.
She was detained in San Antonio after crossing the border, and a month later she was reconnected in West Haven with her mother, whom she hadn’t seen in eight years.
The horror of her story notwithstanding, Hazel was forthcoming and friendly at the rally. A lawyer is currently helping her to obtain asylum, she said.
For advocates such as Rosario Caicedo, harrowing journeys like Hazel’s call attention to the humanitarian crisis driving the surge in young unaccompanied immigrants. Caicedo, pictured, volunteers with Unidad Latina, and was a social worker in New Haven for over 30 years.
“It takes enormous courage and desperation to cross a border,” she said.
Mayors in New Haven and Bridgeport have already expressed interest in housing some of the 2,000 children. New Haven mayoral Chief of Staff Tomas Reyes said Tuesday afternoon that other cities have been brought into the conversation about presenting a plan to Malloy soon; he also said religious and other community groups have offered to help find homes for children. “We want to make sure it’s humane,” Reyes said. “We’re not going to warehouse children.”
To fail to respond in a meaningful way, Kica Matos said in an interview, would be a step backwards for the state.
“This decision doesn’t align with the values of Connecticut residents,” she said. “Malloy’s position is also inconsistent with that of other state leaders.”
As a conservative I don’t really get what the issue is with either party balking on this. Our country was made because people left far away lands to make a better life here. Were some of them criminals? Of course, we are too worried about being safe these days. These are children ffs. Of course America should take them in.
posted by: JohnTulin on July 23, 2014 8:49am
Sagimore, you make a great point.
Additionally, many of the Europeans who came here came as children alone. Including my great-grandmother from Ireland and 9 years old. Never went to school, neer got a licence, went right to work in factories for rest of her life. Raised kids who fought in WWII, they had Baby Boomers and here I am today ...American as apple pie. This is how it works. This is how it always has worked.
But….it seems that one side of the debate doesn’t want to know their history or look at this rationally or with compassion. They want to suggest that the children coming here are part of a scheme by Obama (see Ted Cruz, Rick Perry) or part of an Al Qaeda plot (see TX Rep. McCaul) or similar to the Nazi occupation of France, seriously (see Gohmert).
How can we move forward on anythings with ‘leaders’ like these? No republican would even hear your level-headed, straight-forward, honest approach to the situation.
posted by: robn on July 23, 2014 8:58am
1) Consistency; is it right if we have rules but only enforce them with certain people and not others? 2) Rules; should we have none? 3) Politicking; CT politicians are too eager to beg for federal funds that could very easily dry up, putting more burden on local taxpayers. 4) Sensibility; creating large scale orphanages is a Dickensian/Orwellian step backwards. 5) Gangs; if its true that many of these “orphans” are actually teenage males, it’s very possible that they are involved with the gangs the media says the “orphans” are fleeing. 6) Reality; one commenter put it better than me; there are poor, desperate people all over the world and we can’t be everything to everyone.
posted by: Esteban on July 23, 2014 9:15am
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
(Cast in bronze inside the Statue of Liberty)
posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on July 23, 2014 10:20am
To ignore the racial element involved here is to ignore the issue completely. If America is a land of immigrants, all except the indigenous people who were already here, and the African people who were forcible brought here, why such much angst about taking “these people” coming here?
I’ll tell you why. These people represent the further browning of America, that’s why. The white, ruling, power elite in America see the hand-writing on the wall. They are losing their numerical majority status. And an influx of even more people of color is just one of the issues they fight so hard against as it may tend to quicken the pace at which this lost occurs.
How ironic, or more like oxymoronic, that those fighting so hard to “protect our borders” from hurting and distressed CHILDREN are the same people who claim they are trying to turn America back to the so-called Christian values of this country’s founders. (Whatever happened to the Christian principle expressed in Luke 18:16?)
Interestingly enough, they are right. For, the values held dear by this country’s founders permitted them to steal from and slaughter the Natives, enslave Africans, marginalize women, and set up a government that claimed liberty for all but allowed only a few to enjoy it.
Today’s conservatives are attempting to conserve a form and function of government that operates best for a few wealthy white men while making most of us little more than pawns on their board. Their ability to do so, they fear, might diminish with their diminished numbers in relation to other racial groups. Now of course, there are too many people outside of that limited group who are willing to go along with them, as long as their individual desires are met. The large community, be damned!
But the goal remains.
The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee
posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 23, 2014 10:28am
I appreciate the dilemma created for so many people who both want to have a working immigration policy and yet recognize a human crisis at the border.
This influx of refugees from South America reminds me of the Jews who fled Nazi Germany only to be refused safe harbor by so many countries. As a result, most of them died in concentration camps.
When it comes to protecting human life, how can anything trump that?
posted by: robn on July 23, 2014 10:32am
The Statue of Liberty was built in 1886 when the world population was 1.5B. Today it’s 7.0B.
posted by: RhyminTyman on July 23, 2014 10:49am
Robn the majority of world the lives in Asia. Over 2.5 billion people live in China and India alone. When has there ever been a problem with Chinese emigration other then after the railroad was built? To throw around 7bn without actually qualitifying it is intellectually dishonest.
posted by: Esteban on July 23, 2014 10:53am
“The Statue of Liberty was built in 1886 when the world population was 1.5B. Today it’s 7.0B.”
posted by: robn on July 23, 2014 11:27am
The relevance is that during our open door policy lasting until the 1920’s (n/I a few very embarrassing moments such as the Chinese Exclusion Act) there were far fewer people in the world. It isn’t just people from Central America who want to come here and we don’t have room for everyone.
posted by: eliantonio on July 23, 2014 11:28am
Dwightstreater, the germanic jews of the thirties were persecuted in a country that wanted them dead and or gone, these people have a country of their own. If we let everyone here who comes from a bad country, what’s the motivation to increase the living conditions in their land? We have a city with a crumbling infrastructure and schools in new haven with a less then 50% graduation rate for black males, kids that are hungry, crack and heroin running rampant and still a large portion of our population un or underinsured. TAKE CARE OUR OWN FIRST.
posted by: Sagimore on July 23, 2014 11:39am
I hate choosing safe over right.
posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 23, 2014 1:35pm
Ellantonio is ignoring the threats to these children’s lives that they have spoken about and that news reports confirm.
Sometimes we just have to stretch ourselves to meet the situation.
As for taking care of our own, start taxing the wealthy non-profits like Yale Corp. and the hospital, raise the income tax on the 1% and lower the real property tax everywhere and get rid of the nuisance taxes and life will improve for everyone.
Aren’t you tired of subsidizing Yale????
posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 23, 2014 2:28pm
even the immigrants that came though ellis island had to go through a certain amount of bureaucracy.
I have stood by undocumented residents in their battle because I do have a family member or 2 that may have came here illegally back in the 1800’s. I stood and spoke out for our city to be a sanctuary city. And I still stand by that. But I will share a story that stays in my heart . I worked at a circuit board factory many moons ago. (they relocated to Mexico) I worked with this women from Tibet. Her and her now husband fled their country and lived on the boarders of India. Every year there were 1000 spaces for people to come to America. Just 1000. They repeatedly applied till they were finally sent to some housing place in the Midwest. They made it after years of being in limbo
Here is another one I knew a women from Columbia who lived on the boarders of Canada she to was there waiting to be able to come into America legally she fled a horrible life.
My neighbor was living in poverty in Jamaica she to did it legally and 11 years later is now a US citizen.
Another friend came from Hati who was only 13 at the time found a way to come here legally and was able to one by one get her family here legally.
I know a young man from Ecuador who was able to come here legally because he to was fleeing some military thing that he was part of and was given a work visa.
point is we have a world of people… Middle east with bombs and all, Asia, Europe, Africa starvation. That are living is similar and even more desperate situations. Each of these places have a certain amount a people that can come here in any given year. What do we do?? really I am being serious. If we bend the rules for one we would need to do it for all.
posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 23, 2014 2:29pm
Part 2 Do we have the resource to handle such an influx? We have homelessness climbing. No jobs. Food and energy prices going through the roof. Taxes climbing locally and nationally. I am not saying to send these mothers and children to their deaths. But the numbers are growing everyday… and how we handle this at this point in time will dictate how many more come…..100,000 500,000??? And again Many in the middle east want to come here, they are fleeing bombs right now. And the crap that is happening is Africa everyday. So do we take a few million in….can we handle it? Do we have the resources. These really are the hard questions that have to be asked.
Dwightstreeter 99.9% of the time I am on the same page as you. And I get the doing what is right as humans. I like to think of myself a liberal most times. But I also think we have to be realistic. That is why this country is in a debate over this. If we say yes and take the people in holding right now…..will that open the door to millions? Can we handle that? I honestly do feel bad in my heart and in no way want to turn these people away. But we do it everyday to so many people around the world. That is why we have the laws set in place…because we can only do so much. L And yes we should be going after yale…but we both know that will never happen they have deep pockets. In the mean time you and I both see the children in this city that need and we do not have all the resources to help them.
posted by: robn on July 23, 2014 3:30pm
I’m with you. Charity begins at home and we do need to respect immigrants who have respected the process.
posted by: TheMadcap on July 23, 2014 9:49pm
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”.*
*But only if they have a legal citizen relative already here **If you don’t have mad skillz offer basically only applies to whites ***I mean “real” white people, not that Mediterranean/Latin junk. ****“Also people will scream “Come here legally” to you despite the fact if it’s post 1922 you have no legal way to come here and pretend their ancestors were somehow different from yours, because in their day they could show up with little money and broken English and be hated by a good deal of the native population but not be tainted with the “illegal” semantic”
posted by: TheMadcap on July 23, 2014 9:53pm
The US population at the time of the statue was also around 80 million vs 316 million today and we’re a heck of a lot more prosperous and wealthy from the top to the bottom than we were in 1880. Absolute numbers mean nothing.