Two Connecticut politicians who have ardently defended New Haven’s status as a sanctuary city promised supporters that they would continue to protect local immigrants from what they see as unjust federal orders of deportation.
That promise came from Mayor Toni Harp and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal at a reelection campaign event Saturday.
Around 50 local politicians, labor organizers, and New Haveners gathered in a small classroom at the New Haven Federation of Teachers Union Hall at 267 Chapel St. to see Blumenthal as he formally endorsed Harp in her bid for a third two-year term as mayor of New Haven.
Harp faces challenger Marcus Paca in a Democratic Party primary on Sept. 12.
Saturday’s event reflected the role that immigration policy is playing in the campaign. It emerged last week as one central difference between the two candidates at their first debate. Paca said that he would decide in “real time,” when elected, whether he would continue New Haven’s sanctuary city policies if those policies truly put the city in danger of losing federal grant money. New Haven has a policy of not detaining nonviolent arrestees in response to federal law enforcement orders concerning undocumented immigrants, which puts it in the path of a promise by President Trump to withhold Department of Justice grants from sanctuary cities. Harp promised to maintain the policy no matter what, even if Trump withholds grants.
Harp Saturday called Blumenthal one of the most effective U.S. senators in the country as she praised him for his support for undocumented immigrants who are facing deportation after spending years in this country working, paying taxes, and raising families.
“He represents the values that we in New Haven have on immigration,” she said. “He used the power that he has a senator to help our neighbors who are threatened by deportation. So much so that they [the Trump administration] are trying to shut him down.”
Both Sen. Blumenthal and Mayor Harp have spoken out in support of Marco Reyes, an undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant who has spent the past two weeks living with his wife and two children at the First & Summerfield Church at College and Elm Streets in downtown New Haven.
The First & Summerfield Church is one of a handful of local religious institutions that have declared themselves to be sanctuary congregations: safe havens for undocumented immigrants facing federal orders of deportation.
Earlier this month, Sen. Blumenthal also introduced a private immigration bill for Reyes in an attempt to secure him permanent legal residency, though Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have said that they will seek to follow through on the deportation order for Reyes even before Congress votes on Blumenthal’s bill.
Blumenthal Saturday said Harp has distinguished herself as a national leader on immigration, and that her work would keep alive the hope for comprehensive immigration reform in this country.
“Had she done nothing else but her leadership on immigration, I would be here urging for her reelection,” he said. “But she has been a national spokesman and a national leader.”
He went on to praise her for supporting minority and women-owned business in New Haven, for taking a “reasonable and thoughtful approach to taxes and fiscal responsibility,” and for generally being a leader of action, not words.
“She is a leader of extraordinary competence and caring, conviction and courage,” he said. “She expresses the highest values that we have as a nation and as a people. On immigration, on fighting drugs, on issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties, her victory will be a national victory.”
Two Sons of Public School Teachers Canvass for Harp
From 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, around 25 New Haven Rising organizers and volunteers took to the streets to canvass for Mayor Harp. After Blumenthal’s endorsement, the Harp campaign sent out another bevy of 25 or 30 campaign staffers and volunteers to spread the word about the upcoming primary and to promote Harp’s candidacy.
Brian Levy, 25, and Tayler Thorpe, 23, traveled up to East Rock to knock doors on Orange Street between Linden and Cold Spring streets. Only one or two of the 30 registered Democrats they were trying to reach during the canvassing outing actually opened their doors to the canvassers, and none were interested in talking politics. The two Harp campaign staffers dutifully wedged campaign flyers into each closed door as they walked the sunny residential blocks. In between homes, they talked about why they were supporting Mayor Harp.
Levy, a Branford native who has been working as Harp’s deputy campaign manager since May and whose mother has taught at the King-Robinson School for 20 years, praised the mayor for working towards improving the state of the New Haven public school system.
He cited higher graduation rates, lower suspension and expulsion rates, and the development of the Youth Stat program, which focuses community and institutional support on students most at risk of getting in trouble, all as indicators of a positive shift in culture and in results in New Haven public education under Harp’s leadership. (Opponent Paca has criticized the state of the public schools under Harp’s leadership and criticized her for spending a year as president of the Board of Education.)
Thorpe, a Hamden native who has been working a campaign field organizer since July and whose mother has taught for 10 years in the New Haven Adult Education program based out of Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, also praised the mayor for her commitment to public education.
“Growing up in Hamden, I was always aware of Toni Harp, first as a state senator and then as mayor,” he said. “And I really credit her with helping make New Haven one of the best cities in the country.”
As joggers passed and doors remained unopened, Levy and Thorpe continued their early afternoon canvassing, hoping to reach some potential voters included in their turf assignment.
“We come from the Obama school of campaigning, the Chris Murphy school of campaigning,” Levy said, “where you take every opportunity you get to pound the pavement and talk with voters. And when politics comes calling at home, we’ve got to answer it.”