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Don’t Deport Central American Migrants to Their Death

Connecticut is coming together on Wednesday, January 6 to say #StoptheRaids #not1more #ICEoutofCT. The rally, which will include “Know Your Rights” street theater begins at 12 PM at the corner of Grand Ave and Ferry Street, New Haven.

In Connecticut, ICE may round up approximately 200 women and children who fled violence in Central America. 155 of those women and children never had a lawyer, and they received a deportation order without any chance to present evidence to an immigration judge.

The Guatemalan community in New Haven, many of whom are indigenous Mayans, survived state-sponsored violence and genocide between 1960 and 1996, when over 200,000 Guatemalans were killed. 93% of atrocities were committed by the Guatemalan military, which was sponsored, trained and armed by the US government.

Unidad Latina en Acción, a grassroots organization founded by Central American immigrants in New Haven, Connecticut has issued the following press release:

For immediate release 1/4/2016
Contact: Karim Calle, suarezk2@gmail.com, 203-823-3265
Joe Foran, jgforan@gmail.com, 860-878-8675

On Christmas Eve, a member of the Obama administration leaked that the government was planning to raid neighborhoods and homes to deport recently arrived asylum seekers from Central America, to send a message that the president is acting tough to stop the influx of women and children who are fleeing violence.[1]  Over the weekend, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun to perform raids in communities across the country, targeting Central American children and families that have arrived in the past two years.[2]  People from across the country have seen our Know Your Rights flyer (below) on social media and have called asking for advice and consolation.

The last time that Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided homes in New Haven in 2007, the community took action and stopped further raids from happening. Thousands marched to denounce the raids. Detainees and community groups won lawsuits against ICE for retaliating against New Haven’s pro-immigrant policies and violating civil rights during the raids.

“We won’t tolerate any more ICE raids in our community,” said Karim Calle, a member of Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA). “We won’t let ICE violate our civil rights. Our community is educated, organized, and ready to defend our rights.”

ICE may round up approximately 200 women and children in Connecticut who fled violence in Central America. 155 of those women and children never had a lawyer to represent them, and they received a deportation order without any chance to present evidence to an immigration judge.[3]

The Guatemalan community in New Haven, many of who are indigenous Mayans, survived state-sponsored violence and genocide between 1960 and 1996, when over 200,000 Guatemalans were killed, 83% of them indigenous people. According to the UN-sponsored truth commission, 93% of atrocities were committed by the Guatemalan military, which was sponsored, trained and armed by the US government.[4]

Only a small fraction of the Central American families who sought refuge in the U.S. over the past two years were able to secure legal representation to argue on their behalf. These families’ claims for asylum are extremely credible. A recent study found that represented children have a 73% success rate in immigration court, as compared to only 15% of unrepresented children. [5]  Deporting them before they can make a proper case is an intolerable injustice.

National advocacy groups sued the US government in August 2014 for deporting Central American women and children who have fled extreme violence, death threats, rape, and persecution without a fair hearing in court. [6]  The Guardian reports that the US has deported least 80 Central Americans to their death in recent years. [7]

Hundreds of detainees in immigration prisons in California, Colorado, Alabama and Texas went on hunger strikes this Thanksgiving to protest the rejection of their asylum claims and prolonged confinement.[8]  The prisons punished them with solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and forced feeding. [9]

For several decades, Guatemalan asylum seekers have made a positive impact on New Haven. In 2002, Guatemalan migrants founded Unidad Latina en Acción, one of the community groups that would go on to create the first government-issued ID card for undocumented immigrants, together with City of New Haven.[10]

In 1999, former US president Bill Clinton apologized for US participation in the atrocities, when he declassified thousands of government documents showing that the US government had trained, armed and aided the Guatemalan military and death squads in those massacres, tortures and rapes. The perpetrators were never been punished, and human rights abuses continue, especially in areas where mining companies are creating violent conflicts.[11] Contemporary violence in Central America has been–and continues to be–funded and supported by the United States. Today, our country is turning its back on the very refugees it has created. We have asked Mayor Harp, Congresswoman DeLauro and other elected officials that they not do the same. We have also asked Mayor Harp to distribute the following Know Your Rights flyer to New Haven public schools.

[1] The Washington Post, “U.S. Plans to Deport Families Who Surged Across the Border” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-plans-raids-to-deport-families-who-surged-across-border/2015/12/23/034fc954-a9bd-11e5-8058-480b572b4aae_story.html

[2]Eyewitness report of Saturday ICE raid in Atlanta: http://mundohispanico.com/videos/mundohispanico/inmigracion-salio-a-arrestar-gente Link in Spanish

[3] http://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/mwc/

[4] Amnesty International, “Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk”
http://www.amnesty.ca/sites/amnesty/files/mining-in-guatemala-rights-at-risk-eng.pdf

[5] American Bar Association Commission on Immigration: “A Humanitarian Call to Action: Unaccompanied Children in Removal Proceedings Present a Critical Need for Legal Representation.” http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/immigration/UACSstatement.authcheckdam.pdf

[6] The Los Angeles Times, “Immigrant rights groups sue U.S. over fast-tracked deportations” http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-immigration-lawsuit-new-mexico-20140822-story.html

[7] The Guardian, “US government deporting Central American migrants to their deaths” http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/12/obama-immigration-deportations-central-america

[8] Mother Jones, “Here’s Why Hundreds of Immigrants in Detention Have Gone on Hunger Strike” http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/11/why-are-hundreds-detained-immigrants-going-hunger-strike

[9] Vice News, “Immigrant Detainees Accuse US of Using Sleep Deprivation During Hunger Strike” https://news.vice.com/article/immigrant-detainees-accuse-us-of-using-sleep-deprivation-during-hunger-strike

[10] Kica Matos, “The Elm City Resident Card: New Haven Reaches Out to Immigrants.” Press release from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. https://www.bostonfed.org/commdev/necd/2008/issue1/elmcitycard.pdf and “About ULA” https://ulanewhaven.org/ula

[11] The New York Times, “Clinton Offers His Apologies To Guatemala” http://www.nytimes.com/1999/03/11/world/clinton-offers-his-apologies-to-guatemala.html

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Parents of Disappeared Mexican Students Arrive in Connecticut

madres-de-los-43-estudiantes_655x438

A group representing the parents of the 43 students kidnapped last year in Guerrero, Mexico have arrived in Connecticut to protest ongoing human rights violations sponsored by Mexican and US governments. The 43 students kidnapped and disappeared by Mexican authorities have become international symbols of the tens of thousands of forced disappearances and over 100,000 killings in Mexico since 2006.

Parents of the disappeared students will rally in Hartford, and in New Haven they will protest at the Yale office of former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo. Details:

Wednesday, April 15  (Hartford)
12 pm – Press Conference at Legislative Office Building (300 Capitol Ave / Hungerford St)
4 pm – Presentation at Trinity College Chapel (300 Summit St)
6 pm – Community Discussion at The Studio @ Billings Forge (563-565 Broad St)

Thursday, April 16  (New Haven)
12 pm – Protest & Prayer Vigil at Yale office of Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo (393 Prospect Street)
6 pm – Community Discussion at New Haven Labor Council (267 Chapel Street)

The Mexican parents’ visit to Connecticut is part of a national tour during which they will speak at churches, universities, community organizations, and labor unions across the United States about the events of September 26, 2014 when police and organized crime killed six, wounded 25, and kidnapped 43 students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College. The parents continue to demand that their children be returned to them “alive as they were when they were taken.”

Organizers of the caravan hope that American citizens and lawmakers will reconsider the hundreds of millions of dollars that the United States provides to Mexico through Plan Mérida. This military aid has been used by the army and police for arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings of Mexican citizens according to Amnesty International and the US State Department.

For more information, please contact:
John Lugo  ulaccion@yahoo.com  203-606-3484
Joseph Foran  jgforan@gmail.com  860-878-8675
Mexico Solidarity Committee / Unidad Latina en Accion
37 Howe Street, New Haven, CT 06511

Ayotzinapa normalistas2 padrenormalistaayotzinapa-720x362

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Support the TRUST Act and #Not1More Deportation

If you care about racial profiling, unconstitutional detentions, and keeping families together, then legislators need to hear from you about the Connecticut TRUST Act (HB 7039).

PUBLIC HEARING DATE: Monday, March 30, 2015

TIME: Public Hearing begins at 10:30 am
You must sign up in advance if you want to testify. You may have to wait several hours to testify, but it’s worth it! Even if you don’t testify, your presence is important. We’ll have stickers for you to wear.

LOCATION: Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106

RSVP: 
Alok Bhatt (Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance) 860-324-0086
Megan Fountain (Unidad Latina en Accion) 203-479-2959 megan [at] ulanewhaven.org

Even if you can’t attend the hearing, you can write to your legislators. 

Email your testimony to megan [at] ulanewhaven.org before Sunday, March 29.

Here’s how your testimony should begin:

Testimony in Support of HB 7039

“Senator Coleman, Representative Tong, and Members of the Judiciary Committee, Please accept my testimony in support of HB 7039 the Connecticut TRUST Act…”

Legislators need to hear from ordinary people like you. If possible, use stories from real life. Read some of the stories on the Not One More Deportation web site. Tell legislators who you are and why your care about equal rights and freedom. We can provide sample testimony if you need ideas.

Download the TRUST Act Fact Sheet

TRUST Act Fact Sheet

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Film & Discussion: Trails of Hope & Terror

Trails-of-Hope-New Haven

Join us for a screening of the documentary film TRAILS OF HOPE AND TERROR, followed by a discussion on immigrant justice and Christian ethics with Rev. Dr. MIGUEL A. DE LA TORRE (Filmmaker – Religious Scholar – Activist) and UNIDAD LATINA EN ACCION (grassroots immigrant activists of greater New Haven).

Proyección de la película documental LOS SENDEROS DE LA ESPERANZA Y EL TERROR, seguido de una charla sobre la justicia migrante y la ética cristiana con el pastor Dr. MIGUEL A. DE LE TORRE y UNIDAD LATINA EN ACCION.

“Cuando una nación construye caminos en otro país para extraer la materia prima y la mano de obra barata, no nos debe sorprender que la gente use esos mismos caminos para seguir todo lo que les ha sido robado.”

Lunes 6 de abril a las 18:30 horas en la Biblioteca Pública de New Haven (133 Elm Street)

Sponsored by New Haven Free Public Library, Unidad Latina en Accion, Yale Divinity School, Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies, and the Ethnicity, Race & Migration Program at Yale

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Wage Theft Infestation at 116 CROWN

Scabby-pay-what-owe

Join us for the next demonstration on Friday, March 27th at 5:30 pm at 116 CROWN.

As a customer, you have a choice. Tell the owner John Ginnetti that you won’t patronize his bar-restaurant until he pays Edgar his overtime wages as required by law. 116 CROWN owes $15,000 in unpaid overtime wages to Edgar. This is not the first time that John Ginnetti has refused to pay wages to workers. But the community is finally saying, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Wage theft — the failure to pay minimum wage or overtime — is an epidemic. 46% of restaurant workers aren’t paid the proper overtime. Wage theft undercuts honest businesses, good jobs, and tax revenues.

Tell CT lawmakers to support SB 914, SB 106 & SB 1037. Sweatshops are so last century. Fair food tastes better!

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Open Letter to Obama Advisor Felicia Escobar on her Visit to New Haven

escobarImmigrant activists and community groups delivered an open letter to Felicia Escobar, President Obama’s top immigration policy advisor, during an event this afternoon at Fair Haven School in New Haven, Connecticut. We hoped to shine a light on the many questions surrounding the “discontinuation” of Secure Communities (“S-Comm”), the failed deportation dragnet program. The event with Ms. Escobar, which was organized by the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, did not provide many opportunities for the people directly affected by Obama’s immigration policies to speak.

Felicia Escobar in CT“For too long, the immigration reform debate has excluded immigrant workers and the people directly affected by these policies,” said John Lugo of Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA). “We are delivering an open letter to Ms. Escobar with questions from the families who have been torn apart by deportations and the immigrant workers who have been fighting for equality.”

Open Letter to Felicia Escobar and President Obama

March 9, 2015

We address you today to seek answers about federal policies that are undermining our human and civil rights for which we have fought so hard, and won, in Connecticut.

ICE has a history of retaliating against Connecticut’s pro-immigrant policies and deporting our community members in violation of DHS directivesWe are concerned about recent reports that ICE officials refuse to comply with Obama’s new DHS mandates. We need to know the truth about ICE, given that President Obama’s budget request will not scale back ICE operations, and ICE will continue to target over 7 million undocumented immigrants in our community who are excluded from the President’s November 20th immigration relief.

We hope you will respond promptly to the Freedom of Information Request delivered on Friday March 6, 2015 at ICE Headquarters in Washington, DC, to “uncover the truth about PEP-COMM”, and more immediately, provide public answers to the questions included below.

1) Secure Communities (“S-Comm”) and now its successor Priority Enforcement Program (“PEP-COMM”) are undermining our public safety and our equal rights by forcing local police and local agencies into the business of immigration enforcement. In November, DHS Secretary Johnson issued a memo that S-Comm was being “discontinued” because of widespread opposition by civil rights groups, government agencies and courts. Yet the Secretary also said that this was a “re-branding.” If police continue to share fingerprints with ICE at the moment of arrest, which was the core element of S-Comm, has the program really ended? The President’s own Task Force on Policing called for a firewall between police and immigration enforcement. Will the President take the advice of his own advisors?

2) New Haven is proud to be the first city in the nation to create a municipal ID card for all residents regardless of immigrant status. We created policies in New Haven (2006), Hartford (2008), and East Haven (2014) to keep our police separate from ICE, to prevent police from engaging in racial profiling and warrantless detentions. Will there be an “opt out” for PEP-COMM if communities like New Haven want to opt out? Will there be an “off switch” if we see terrible police abuse and civil rights violations, like we saw in East Haven, Connecticut?

3) Since November 20, the President has stated repeatedly that his new policy focuses on deporting “felons and not families.” Does he believe that deportation should be used as a form of punishment? What if immigrants have paid their debt to society? What about places where convictions were based on unlawful or biased policing? This was the case of Edgar Marin who was almost deported because of an abusive East Haven Police officer. Many members of our community have criminal charges in their past, but we don’t believe that anything is achieved by tearing apart their families. The President’s rhetoric and actions contradict Governor Malloy’s “Second Chance Society” initiative.

4) There have been reports across the country that local ICE offices are disregarding ALL of Secretary Johnson’s memos although the injunction issued in the Texas case only applies to DAPA and DACA 2.0. What are the consequences for ICE officials that refuse to implement the Secretary’s priorities?

5) With so many of us left out of President Obama’s immigration action and news of heightened ICE raids, we need answers. If nearly 80% of Americans favor a pathway to citizenship or permanent legal residence for undocumented immigrants, and only 18% favor deportations, will you continue to target and detain our community? Some of us have lived and worked here for decades. Just because we don’t have children, do we not have human rights? Do we not have workers rights? Will the President meet with those of us who have been left out to make clear that we all deserve equality?

6) Some of our community members are suffering because their mom or dad was deported. Suidy and Jesslyn Jimenez, US citizens who have lived their whole lives in Connecticut, are devastated since their mom was deported. She was deported a second time when she tried to reunite with her family in the United States. Will DHS continue to press criminal charges against people who come to this country to reunite with family or flee difficult conditions, even if they may qualify for humanitarian parole or asylum? Will President Obama close down the immigration prisons, starting with the new “family detention centers” that deprive women and children of a chance to seek asylum?

7) Will President Obama meet with immigrant workers to discuss the root causes of migration? Why is the President pushing for trade policies like the Trans Pacific Partnership that keep wages low and destroy jobs in our countries, forcing displaced workers to migrate?

We are confident that immigration reform will be possible when the United States reckons with the causes of migration and the harm of ICE operations in our communities.

From Unidad Latina en Accion, Comunidad Inmigrante de East Haven, Ecuadorean Civic Committee, and members of the Connecticut immigrant rights community

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New Report: The Connecticut Wage Theft Crisis

This report released today by ULA shares stories of some of the workers who have been left unprotected by Connecticut law and recommends policy reforms that can help Connecticut combat wage theft.

Every year, Connecticut workers lose millions of dollars in unpaid wages. Wage theft occurs when employers fail to pay the minimum wage, fail to pay the overtime rate, force employees to work off the clock, steal tips, or fail to pay any wages at all. Law-abiding businesses, tax payers and working families pay a high cost when exploitative businesses cheat.
Current Connecticut law fails to hold employers accountable. Penalties are so small and so rare that bad employers do not change their practices.

Frequently workers take an employer to court and win, but they cannot collect any money, because the employer declares bankruptcy or argues that he has no assets. In thousands of cases every year, Connecticut employers close their businesses and reopen with a different name; transfer property to family members; leave the country with their property; and use other tactics to “disappear” their assets so they can avoid paying the worker what they owe. Connecticut should adopt measures that other states have adopted to prevent unscrupulous employers from avoiding court judgments.

Download the report “The Connecticut Wage Theft Crisis: Stories & Solutions (PDF)

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Obama Halts Millions of Deportations, CT Immigrants Keep Fighting

Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA) and undocumented mothers, fathers, children and workers who have been fighting deportations rallied tonight at the Federal Courthouse in New Haven, Connecticut in response to President Obama’s announcement that his administration will halt deportations for millions.

ULA also celebrated the news that President Obama had abolished the Secure Communities (S-Comm) program. Connecticut was the first state to create statewide legislation to resist S-Comm. The TRUST Act resulted from rallies and civil disobedience actions in defense of detained immigrants like Jose Maria Islas and Jose Luis Piscil. On Monday, Nov. 17, Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC) issued a memo further restricting S-Comm, after outcry about the imprisonment of Esvin Lima.

A new memo from Obama’s Homeland Security chief dated Nov. 20 states that S-Comm will be discontinued because,

“The program has attracted a great deal of criticism, is widely misunderstood, and is embroiled in litigation; its very name has become a symbol for general hostility toward the enforcement of our immigration laws. Governors, mayors, and state and local law enforcement officials around the country have increasingly refused to cooperate with the program, and many have issued executive orders or signed
laws prohibiting such cooperation. A number of federal courts have rejected the
authority of state and local law enforcement agencies to detain immigrants pursuant to federal detainers issued under the current Secure Communities program.”

“In Connecticut, we shut down S-Comm, and now nationwide we shut down S-Comm demanding Not One More Deportation,” explains Luis Luna one of the ULA activists who took over Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s office last year demanding Not One More Deportation. “We won’t stop until all of our community members and loved ones are free.”

Jose Luis Piscil a New Haven father with no criminal record in deportation proceedings said,

Piscil closeup“I will hopefully benefit from this relief and be able to stay with my children and my wife. I am cautious because I could be deported any day now while I appeal the deportation order and sue Department of Homeland Security. If I lose my appeal, I will keep fighting, and I will keep fighting for all 11 million who deserve equal rights.”

Suidy Jimenez, a West Haven high schooler and US citizen said,

15549158429_c35231cae0_k“I am devastated because my mother was deported yesterday. I contacted Senator Blumenthal months ago when she was jailed near the Texas border and nobody listened. We need to listen to the people who are detained and suffering. Obama needs to reunite families. He has the power. He deported 2 million, and he should bring back my mom and all the parents through humanitarian parole. We’re suffering.”

Obama could allow some of the 200,000 mothers and fathers he deported to reunite with their families in the US by expanding the policy of humanitarian parole.

Alejandro Gonzalez, an undocumented construction worker, resident of Meriden for 13 years, said,

Alejandro“I probably will not qualify for relief even though I have lived in Connecticut for 13 years and worked hard. The visas are only for “highly skilled” workers. I am human. Immigrants are the economic motor of the United States. We want relief for all 11 million and equality, nothing less. I was not afraid to be arrested in a civil disobedience to ‘shut down ICE’ at Suffolk Detention Center in Boston in April. I’m not afraid to do it again. I will do whatever it takes to get equality.”

Juana Islas, an undocumented mother of 3 who fought to free her brother Jose Maria Islas from immigration prison.

15652256927_c93ed5fcfd_o“If Obama extends relief only to parents of US citizens, I will probably benefit, but my brother will not. This is the sadness that the immigration system will keep separating families and we need to keep fighting. I am proud that we ended Secure Communities in Connecticut and in the United States.”

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ACTION ALERT: Trust Act Loophole Could Mean Deportation for Tenant who Reported Housing Violation

Demonstration for Esvin Lima, Oct. 15, 2014

The governor’s office needs to hear from you today. Please call Mike Lawlor in the governor’s office at 860-418-6394 “I’m calling because Connecticut should not honor the immigration detainer request for Esvin Lima (Inmate #402223). Mr. Lima is a hardworking community member who was retaliated against by his landlord. The TRUST Act needs to be improved to protect people like him.”

Read more on the CT Post: “Immigration activists: TRUST not enough” (10/18/14)

Esvin Lima had enough.

After living with another undocumented man in the substandard conditions of an illegal apartment in the basement of a residential home in Norwalk, he decided something had to be done.

But Lima, 21, never thought calling the Norwalk Health Department would spiral into an episode that has kept him in jail since March and leave him facing deportation to Guatemala… READ MORE

On WNPR: “Immigration Rights Advocates Warn of Connecticut TRUST Act Loophole” (10/20/14)

Esven Lima has no criminal record, but he was deported back in 2012, when he first traveled to the United States. For that reason, the Connecticut Department of Correction wants to honor the ICE detainer… READ MORE

Sign the petition for Esvin Lima.

See photos from our demonstration on Wednesday, Oct. 15 outside the Bridgeport Correctional Center where Esvin is being held. The protest included people from Ministerio de Hermandad (Meriden, CT), Esperanza Center for Law and Advocacy (Bridgeport, CT), and activists from Fairfield County, New London and New Haven.

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Child migrants arriving in Connecticut: How you can help

"No Child Is Illegal" rally
“No Child Is Illegal” rally

Nine year old Selvin will never forget his journey across the border. Riding through Mexico on top of the notorious train, La Bestia, he saw people fall and get crushed. But when his mother told US immigration authorities about the violence that they had fled in Guatemala, the authorities agreed that they might be eligible for asylum. Released from a Texas detention center, they came to New Haven, Connecticut, where they had a friend. 

ULA currently is assisting about 30 Guatemalan children, adolescents, women and men who, like Selvin, recently have fled Guatemala and arrived in New Haven’s immigrant neighborhood. We are connecting them with legal services to make sure that they have a fair hearing in court; enrolling them in school; helping them get treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, malnourishment and other urgent health needs; and providing them with a supportive community.

So how can you help?

Volunteer

No matter what your skills and talents, there are many ways to contribute. We especially need volunteers to take these recent arrivals to appointments at immigration court, the Guatemalan consulate, health centers and more.

To sign up, email megan@ulanewhaven.org

Donate

Monetary donations are needed for legal and court fees; transportation to immigration, consular, and other appointments; meetings with policy makers and human services agencies; and weekly activities that help these immigrants heal and build power.

Click to donate

 

Advocate

Sign up for email alerts
Rally in Washington DC on August 2
Call Governor Malloy

Read about us in the news

WNPR: Central American Migrant Children Arrive in Connecticut

New Haven Speaks blog: Governor Malloy’s Epic Fail

Colin McEnroe: Will We Answer This Postcard From God?

New Haven Independent: Carlos Flees The Gangs

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Activists #shutdownICE at Boston Detention Center

Activists Shut Down ICE at Boston Detention Center
Activists at the April 17, 2014 action

UPDATE: 19 arrested.  Boston Globe coverage.

Protestors Shut Down Entrance to Suffolk Detention Center, Call on President Obama to Stop Deportations

This action includes activists from Unidad Latina en Accion, Amistad Catholic Worker, Migrant Justice, and other protestors from around New England. Click here for the Live Feed, or scroll down below.

More media coverage: CBS Boston, Free Speech Radio News, Northeast Public Radio

Boston, MA – Immigrant activists and religious leaders from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont have formed a human chain at the entrance of the Suffolk Detention Center in Boston to demand action from President Obama to end the suffering caused by deportation. The prison at 20 Bradston Street has been the site of an immigrant prisoner hunger strike in October 2013 and is currently embroiled in lawsuits protesting indefinite detention.

Those risking arrest include many directly impacted by deportation, including Alejandro Gonzalez, an undocumented man from Connecticut. “I participate in this civil disobedience during Holy Week to let those in high positions in the government know that we reject the laws that criminalize our people, only for not having a piece of paper,” says Gonzalez. “Although I know I face being deported too, eleven million people need us to act.  For that reason, the word ‘fear’ is not in my vocabulary. On this holy day, we remember that we must make sacrifices to help our community.”  Read More…

Live Feed via National Day Laborer Organizing Network

Video streaming by NDLON

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Gourmet Heaven owner returns to court April 8, charged with multiple felonies for wage theft

In a major victory for ULA, New Haven Police arrested the owner of Gourmet Heaven on February 20 and 24. He is charged with more than 20 felonies and 20 misdemeanors for paying workers $4 to $6 per hour. As far as we know, this is the first time that NHPD has charged an employer with larceny for stealing wages from workers.

The owner, Chung Cho, paid two $5000 bonds and was released from custody. He was scheduled to appear in New Haven Superior Court on March 4. Former Gourmet Heaven workers went to court on that day, as did the New Haven Register. Mr. Cho did not show his face. His lawyer asked the judge for a continuance, and it was granted.

The prosecutor spoke with the former Gourmet Heaven workers and told them that their presence in court, as crime victims, was important. He said that he considered this a serious crime.

Mr. Cho returns to court April 8. On that day, we’ll rally at the courthouse at 9 am!!

Read the news in

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Student newspaper urges Yale to evict Gourmet Heaven

Yale Daily News has published a strongly worded editorial urging the university to evict Gourmet Heaven if the deli does not respond to new allegations of retaliatory firings and continuing wage theft. Here’s an excerpt:

The law, in this case, seems feebly equipped to protect the people that are most vulnerable. The only remaining path to justice is through direct action on the part of our University, which serves as both Gourmet Heaven’s landlord and clientele.

First, University Properties should pressure Cho to ameliorate employee conditions with the threat of eviction. University Properties is complicit in mistreatment at Gourmet Heaven. It has only been willing thus far to issue a vague statement, promising that it “will not renew the lease of any tenant not in complete compliance with the labor laws.” But we cannot wait until July 2016, when Gourmet Heaven’s lease expires, to address these violations.

Administrators must ensure that the many allegations against Gourmet Heaven — including workplace intimidation, cash payments and deplorable housing conditions  — are fully investigated. And should any allegations be substantiated, University Properties has the legal basis, and the moral obligation, to terminate the lease immediately.

Second, we call for a continued protest and boycott of Gourmet Heaven, both to pressure Cho as well as University Properties. For students to boycott a business on Yale’s property sends a clear message to administrators that we believe something is wrong. And as Gourmet Heaven is our only late-night food option, the boycott sends a message directly to Cho: It’s not that we prefer a different sandwich, but that we will not stomach his unjust labor practices.

The approach we take toward Gourmet Heaven matters beyond this specific case. We have little power to change wage theft on a national level, but we can set the precedent that our community will not tolerate open allegations of worker abuse going unchecked. We do not know the scope of labor injustice in New Haven, or even within University-owned properties. But acting on this one case, we can establish how the University should act when allegations of worker mistreatment arise in the future.

Read the whole editorial on Yale Daily News

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Jose Luis Piscil petitions DHS to expand DACA and suspend deportations

Luis at Yes You Can press conferenceToday ULA member Jose Luis Piscil joined a group of undocumented individuals to file a rule-making petition to the Department of Homeland Security. The “Si Se Puede (Yes You Can)” rule-making petition argues that DHS can and should alter its rules to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to the fullest extent possible and suspend deportations for undocumented workers, just as DHS did for undocumented childhood arrivals. The petition was drafted by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law on behalf of Jose Luis and other undocumented immigrants in deportation proceedings.

Under the Administrative Procedures Act, members of the public are allowed to petition agencies for changes to existing rules. DHS must provide a response and explain its decision to grant or deny petitioners’ request.

During a press conference this morning at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington DC, Thomas Chew of Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic stated, “The Constitution gives the President unilateral power to determine when it is, and when it is not, in the national interest to initiate deportation proceedings. The only question that remains is whether this President will exercise his power to protect our nation’s immigrants and our nation’s economy from the devastation his immigration policies have wrought.”

LuisFamilyFor Jose Luis, a factory worker who has lived in New Haven for seven years, the petition is part of his urgent attempt to remain with his family, including his two US citizen children. He was apprehended by ICE in 2012 when police arrested him for a minor charge that was later dismissed.

“ICE put me in jail, not because of any criminal conviction, but because I had entered the country without papers,” says Jose Luis. “In jail, I thought about my wife, who was five months pregnant. I thought, ‘What if I never meet my son? What if my children grow up without their father?’” For about 80% of people in deportation proceedings from 2008 to the present, DHS initiated proceedings based on immigration violations, not criminal convictions, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

NDLON Staff Attorney Jessica Karp says, “This petition gives DHS the opportunity to correct years of reckless enforcement and also grant relief to immigrant workers and families who the President and leaders on both sides of the aisle all agree belong here.”

Click here to stop Jose Luis’s deportation!

Click here to read the rule-making petition

and learn more about why Obama can and should use Executive authority to suspend deportations

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6 things Obama can do to reduce deportations

During the State of the Union address, President Obama pledged to take executive action on just about every issue EXCEPT immigration. Here are six things that Obama can do — and he doesn’t need Congress — to rein in his massive deportation-military-prison-immigration system. Next week Jose Luis Piscil, a New Haven father and ULA member facing deportation, will join other people in his situation in Washington DC to deliver this list.

From National Day Laborer Organizing NetworkNDLON exec action

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Do Gourmet Heaven workers oppose the boycott?

$5 per hour
Photo by Roman Castellano

Last week, some Gourmet Heaven workers held a counter protest to denounce ULA and the boycott campaign. As students and community members who support the boycott, we understand that “G-Heav” employees are under intense pressure to show loyalty to their boss. Here is our compassionate response.

It is true that some Gourmet Heaven workers oppose the boycott.

They are the higher-paid managers, cashiers, and a handful of employees who are friends with the management. They are happy with their pay. What’s more, they like it when their overtime hours are paid under the table, because no taxes are deducted and nothing gets reported to the IRS. Can you blame them?

Let’s be clear. The management organized the counter protest.

Some workers who attended felt that they had no choice. If they failed to show up, the management would suspect their disloyalty. Some of the workers who attended had no idea what was going on. They had been hired recently to replace the four workers who were fired during Christmas break. They simply showed up because they were told. Other workers — including Mohammed Masau who was quoted in the YDN — don’t even work at the Connecticut stores. They drove in a company vehicle from the Gourmet Heaven in Rhode Island. What more evidence does you need that the counter protest was orchestrated by the management? Some people at the counter protest were not workers at all. They were family and friends. However, they put on aprons over their puffy winter coats, and this fooled the Yale Daily News into reporting that “20 Gourmet Heaven employees came out” to the counter protest.

Yes, there are some workers who are loyal to the management and are making statements in favor of their boss. But they do not accurately represent all of the workers when they say “We’re all happy and we don’t complain. We don’t want this boycott.” They don’t represent Misael, Hisai, Cristian and Julio, who were fired for “snitching” to the Department of Labor. They don’t represent the 25 workers and former workers who are still waiting for the owner to pay tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid minimum wage and overtime.

We will continue to stand with these workers who want justice. They stuck their necks out by telling the truth to the DOL. They risked everything by sharing their stories with us, and we will not abandon them or be intimidated. We will continue to boycott, until Chung Cho pays the DOL all of what he owes, and until he addresses our concerns about ongoing retaliation and unlawful payments.

Is the boycott helpful to the workers?

Mr. Cho tells his employees that low sales may force him to close, leaving them without jobs, with no way to feed their families. Shame on him for spreading fear. The boycott may put a dent in his profits, but it’s nothing compared to the personal fortune that he has acquired by stealing tens of thousands yearly from workers and the IRS. Furthermore, if Mr. Cho wants to end the boycott, he can end it right now by paying the DOL and sitting down with us to address our concerns.

The idea that paying workers correctly would bankrupt the store is absurd. If stores like Claire’s Corner Copia can pay above the minimum wage and provide health insurance on top of that, then why can’t Mr. Cho? If he is not willing to compete on a level playing field, then we should not renew his lease, and we should bring in a new employer who will provide jobs that are worthy of our community.

Here’s why the boycott is so powerful: Mr. Cho is not afraid to flout the law, but he is afraid of us. He knows that if students, workers and community come together and say “Enough is enough,” he will no longer be able to exploit workers in our community. That’s why we continue to stand with Misael, Hisai, Cristian, Julio, and the anonymous workers who are still demanding: “Boycott Gourmet Heaven!”

Cathleen Calderon, Mecha de Yale
Creighton Chandler, Seminarians for a Democratic Society at Yale
Joe Foran, Amistad Catholic Worker
Megan Fountain, Unidad Latina en Accion

Read more about Boycott Gourmet Heaven→

Sign the petition→

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Sign the petition, Boycott Gourmet Heaven, Rally April 8, 2014

It’s easy to lend support! Sign the petition below; don’t shop at Gourmet Heaven; and rally at New Haven Superior Court on April 8, 2014.

If you belong to an organization, please let us know. We are happy to visit your organization, educate your members, and answer their questions.

For detailed, up-to-date information about the boycott, check out the latest Boycott Gourmet Heaven posts on our blog.

We Stand With Gourmet Heaven Workers

We call on the owner of Gourmet Heaven to repair the harm done to Gourmet Heaven workers by paying all back wages owed, reinstating the workers who were fired in retaliation, and compensating workers fairly from this day forward.

The Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) announced on August 7, 2013 that Gourmet Heaven was guilty of failing to pay minimum wage and overtime to more than a dozen workers.

The DOL currently is requesting that Gourmet Heaven pay back wages and fines. Gourmet Heaven is liable under Connecticut statutes to pay workers double the wages that were stolen from them during the past two years, plus damages.

A dozen Gourmet Heaven workers have testified that they earned between $5 and $7 per hour, working 12-hour shifts, six days per week. Two adults working full time must earn at least $18 per hour to raise a family free of poverty in Connecticut. Across the United States, fast food workers are striking for $15 per hour.

Wage laws are routinely broken in Connecticut. Many businesses in New Haven continue to violate the wage laws, despite multiple interventions by the DOL.

We recognize that boycotts and public actions are effective ways for workers and consumers to exercise our power. We hereby resolve to stand with Gourmet Heaven workers until they have fair wages, back pay, and humane working conditions.

We will not patronize businesses where workers are protesting human rights violations, because these businesses cheat workers and impoverish the New Haven community.

We will support workers in Greater New Haven when they come out of the shadows to demand human rights, and we will use our power to defend them from intimidation and retaliation.

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ULA activists fined for civil disobedience

Gregory Williams and Jordan Scruggs of Yale Divinity School, Mark Colville of Amistad Catholic Worker, and Megan Fountain of ULA sentenced for civil disobedience
Gregory Williams and Jordan Scruggs of Yale Divinity School, Mark Colville of Amistad Catholic Worker, and Megan Fountain of ULA sentenced for civil disobedience

A federal magistrate judge has ruled that four ULA activists must pay a fine for blocking the entrance of Hartford Immigration Court on February 21, 2013 in a protest against the deportation of Jose Maria Islas.

At sentencing, the protesters made a motion to donate community service or funds to a local organization serving immigrants. The motion was denied.

The protesters argued that if the judge was concerned about public safety, she should be concerned about the hundreds of migrants whose lives are extinguished because of brutal US immigration policies. Greg read aloud the names of all the migrants whose bodies have been found on the border this year.

Megan read aloud a letter written by Jose Maria, who was present in the courtroom. In July this year, he was released from prison and granted a one-year stay of deportation after a year-long protest movement by Unidad Latina en Accion.

Read the article in New Haven Register