About ULA

Who We AreOur HistoryWhat We Do

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.

ULA-who-we-are

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.

Workers' Rights

Wage theft — the illegal underpayment of wages — is widespread in Connecticut and throughout the United States. ULA helps people recover unpaid wages (such as minimum wage and overtime) and creates an environment in which wage theft will no longer be tolerated. Our activities include:

  • Helping workers calculate wages owed
  • Negotiating with employers
  • Collaborating with the Connecticut Department of Labor, police departments and criminal courts to hold employers accountable
  • Improving policies protecting workers from wage theft
  • Publicly shaming employers who cheat workers
  • Empowering workers to defend their rights

In addition to wage theft, our community frequently suffers at work from:

  • workplace injuries and deaths
  • sexual harassment
  • discrimination
  • lack of sick days, maternity leave, health insurance, disability and unemployment compensation

Because the law does not protect our community from many of these violations, we must organize to defend our rights. We use a combination of legal action and public campaigns (boycotts, protests and negotiations) to win justice.

Immigrant & Civil Rights

ULA responds to emergencies when members of our community are victimized by the police or immigration authorities. We document abuses by the authorities; file legal challenges; accompany victims in court; and use public awareness campaigns to change attitudes and policies.

Culture & Community

ULA uses different forms of art and media to educate the community, tell our stories, and celebrate our cultures. We have a theater troupe that meets weekly in New Haven. ULA members contribute to a weekly radio program that broadcasts in Spanish throughout southern Connecticut. We host concerts by Latin American musicians; book discussions by international authors; and the annual Day of the Dead Parade in the Fair Haven neighborhood.