We are a grassroots social justice organization made up of immigrants in the Greater New Haven area since 2002. Many of us have suffered human rights abuses on the job and in the immigration system. We come together to address human rights abuses in our community.
We combine direct action, legal action, and education to create systemic change. We speak Spanish, Mam, Totonaco and Kaqchikel.
ULA is a leading member of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, a statewide coalition including immigrant, faith, labor, civil rights and human service organizations.
ULA is supported by individual donations, mostly from immigrants themselves, and by the Graustein Memorial Fund, Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, and Haymarket Peoples Fund.
In 2004, ULA initiated a campaign to stop police from racially profiling people based on their perceived immigrant status. ULA convened the immigrant community to testify about racial profiling. The result was Police General Order 06-2, which prohibits New Haven police from questioning individuals about their immigrant status. At the same time, ULA and Junta worked with the City of New Haven to create a government-issued ID card for all city residents, regardless of immigration status. In 2007, New Haven became the first US city to issue such an ID card.
After ICE raided homes and detained 29 New Haven residents in 2007, ULA organized a massive march to put a stop to further raids scheduled in New Haven. Through a lawsuit, ULA discovered that the raids had been an act of retaliation against the New Haven ID card. In 2012, victims of the raids won a large settlement against ICE for civil rights violations.
Since 2008, when an immigrant was brutally beaten by New Haven police, ULA has organized direct actions with dozens of Latino and African American police brutality victims. In 2009, ULA worked with the community in East Haven to organize a large march against racial profiling and to meet with the mayor. After many residents sued the police with help from St. Rose of Lima Church, the US Department of Justice launched an investigation. When the DOJ indicted four police officers in 2012, ULA organized another massive march, calling for the mayor to step down.
In 2011, after a member of ULA was arrested and charged with interfering for filming the New Haven Police with his phone, we organized a series of marches until we won city- and state-level policies protecting the people’s right to record video and audio of the police.
ULA’s worker campaigns have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for victims of sexual harassment, accidents, and wage theft (the illegal underpayment of wages). In 2013, ULA initiated a year-long boycott at the Gourmet Heaven deli on Yale’s campus that was paying its workers $4 per hour, under the minimum wage. The pickets attracted so much attention that Yale administrators, the mayor’s office, the police department, and the Department of Labor met with ULA. As a result of these meetings, the DOL collaborated with the NHPD to arrest the owner and charge him with 40 counts of wage violations and larceny; and Yale decided not to renew the lease of the deli owner.
Since 2012, ULA has organized in defense of immigrants detained under the “Secure Communities” program (S-Comm). Through sit-ins and direct actions targeting ICE and elected officials, ULA has gotten ICE to use prosecutorial discretion to free dozens of immigrants from prison and deportation. In 2013, ULA helped establish the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA) to draft and pass a bill, the TRUST Act, to limit the participation of Connecticut law enforcement in S-Comm. However, the Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC) continued to hold people illegally on ICE requests, so ULA held a series of protests leading to negotiations with Governor Malloy, who agreed to change DOC policy.
In 2014, Luis Piscil, one of the ULA leaders who was a victim of S-Comm, got together with other formerly incarcerated immigrants from around the country to sue Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to force changes in S-Comm and prosecutorial discretion. Piscil, a factory worker and father who is still in deportation proceedings, became a local and national spokesperson, telling his story to dozens of national and international news outlets. In November 2014, the Obama administration finally agreed to end S-Comm, citing protests by Connecticut and hundreds of counties and cities.
Highlights from 2017
- ULA and clergy held a dozen pickets at Hamden Town House Restaurant in solidarity with six former employees who are suing for lost wages and unpaid overtime, plus damages related to workplace injuries, intimidation, and abuse.
- After a year of pickets, ULA negotiated a settlement to compensate a restaurant worker who was unfairly fired from Atticus Cafe, a popular eatery near Yale University campus.
- ULA’s five-year battle to end wage theft at Gourmet Heaven deli resulted in a court judgment of $175,000 in 2016, but the deli has yet to comply with the judgment. ULA continues to fight for the workers to be paid as the judge ordered.
Immigrant Rights Advocacy with Government Officials
- To protect immigrant neighbors from Trump’s racist agenda, ULA organized several massive marches and ultimately established a Sanctuary City Working Group to strengthen sanctuary city policies in New Haven.
- To protect immigrant students, ULA collaborated with City of New Haven to create a sanctuary schools policy.
- ULA met with Connecticut Governor Malloy after Trump threatened to withdraw funds from sanctuary cities. Immigrants spoke powerfully and convinced Governor Malloy to issue a guidance to CT mayors and police chiefs to assure them that sanctuary policies are constitutional and good for public safety.
- ULA designated a liaison at the Governor’s office who communicates with us on a regular basis.
- ULA delivered a letter to the Chief Justice of Connecticut asking him to keep ICE out of Connecticut courthouses.
- ULA participated in “the Big Read,” a project of the National Endowments for the Arts administered through city libraries to encourage reading and discussing the novel Into the Beautiful North, highlighting a young Mexican woman’s plight crossing the border into the USA.
- ULA and clergy met with the mayor, police chief, and school administrators of the Town of Hamden to urge them to adopt “sanctuary city” policies.
Sanctuary from Deportations
- Stopped the deportation of Luis Barrios, father of four, through a public campaign including petitions, protests, civil disobedience, collaboration with multiple grassroots resistance groups and outreach to US Senator Blumenthal and US Congressperson DeLauro.
- Collaborated with multiple community groups, elected officials, and religious leaders to stop the deportation of Nury Chavarria, mother of 4. Nury was the first in Connecticut to seek church sanctuary to avoid deportation.
- Stopped the deportation of Marco Antonio Reyes Alvarez, father of 3, scheduled to be deported in August. When he decided to take refuge in a church sanctuary, ULA kept Marco Reyes in the news with public events including concerts, cooking lessons, open mic night, rallies, and worship services. ULA surrounded him with supporters for 106 days until ICE granted him a stay of removal and was finally able to walk free from the church.
- Hours after Attorney Jeff Sessions announced that the White House planned to rescind DACA, ULA held a rally at Marco’s church attended by over 900 city residents and students to show support for DACA.
- Supported Franklin and Gioconda Ramos in their successful campaign to avoid deportation with petitions, public campaigns, and the first civil disobedience at the federal ICE building in Hartford to involve faith leaders getting arrested.
- Collaborated with multiple groups to support Sujitno Sajuti including petitions and rallies. Sujitno is currently the only immigrant in a church sanctuary in Connecticut.
- Answered Miriam Martinez-Lemus’s lawyers call for assistance 3 days before scheduled deportation. Miriam is the mother of 2, one of whom is medically dependent on her. Miriam is the first to openly defy ICE by not reporting for deportation, but publicly declaring “You know where I am. Come and get me.”
Other 2017 New Initiatives
- Led a coalition effort that resulted in Yale changing the name of Calhoun College, named after a white supremacist. Yale renamed it Grace Hopper College, the second Yale College named after a woman.
- Helped establish the Immigrant Bail Fund. Posted bail and drove up to Massachusetts to free several Connecticut immigrants from detention centers.