immigration protestHARTFORD – More than 600 people shouted “We are immigrants. We are not criminals” in Spanish as they marched down Main Street to the state Capitol on Monday.The stickers on some of the marchers shirts read: “A day of dignity.“Juan Hernandez, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union, said the demonstrators have lived in this country for years and should have rights, too. “The right to work and be paid a fair wage,” he added.

Hernandez said there’s a fear among Americans that illegal immigrant workers will steal jobs away from Americans, but he said that’s not true. He said the McCain-Kennedy legislation – which the U.S. Senate failed to pass Friday as its two-week break began – will boost the economy and increase the number of jobs and wages for Americans as well. He said the people marching Monday are not looking to work for less than minimum wage, which he said is “a joke” in many states. According to a December 2005 study by the Connecticut Affordable Housing Coalition, Hartford residents must work 107 hours a week at the minimum wage in order to afford the rent for a two-bedroom apartment. Since the study was completed, the minimum wage was increased from $7.10 to $7.40 an hour. It will rise again in January 2007 to $7.65 per hour. Click here to read the study.Hernandez said he hopes the U.S. Senate takes up the immigration issue again when it returns.A pamphlet handed out at Monday’s march reads, “Don’t allow yourself to be convinced that the richest country in the world doesn’t have enough money to hire immigrant and native-born workers and pay them suitably.” The march was part of a nationwide effort to change immigration and undocumented worker policies in the United States. It was one of more than 60 planned demonstrations across the country.