HARTFORD, CT — Last week college students across the country called on their administrators to pledge their support to undocumented students and faculty, on Monday more than a hundred marchers were calling on state leadership to become a sanctuary state.
The Connecticut Immigrants Rights Alliances — a statewide coalition of immigrant advocacy groups, law firms, nonprofits, and labor unions — marched down Main Street in Hartford calling on lawmakers to declare Connecticut the first sanctuary state in the country.
“The rally on Monday will serve to plant a flag firmly in our soil that says — We’re not going anywhere whether you like it or not,” Renato Muguerza, an organizer of the event, said. “We are part of what has made this country great, and we demand to be treated equitably. We urge our legislators to recognize the value that immigrants have brought to the state, and we call on their support in this critical moment of need.”
Rep. Ed Vargas, D-Hartford, who marched on Monday, said he’s never heard of a sanctuary state, “but who knows Connecticut could become the first.”
Vargas said he would support a measure making Connecticut a sanctuary state by passing legislation to inform law enforcement not to ask about immigration status.
“Most of my colleagues at the legislature are sympathetic to this issue and so is the governor,” Vargas said.
Meg Green, a spokeswoman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the governor supports an “open dialogue about realistic and responsible changes to our federal immigration policy, he does not and will not support deporting our residents to areas where they aren’t going to be safe.”
Connecticut has taken steps to ensure undocumented students are able to access in-state tuition at public universities. It also also created a path that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license in Connecticut. The bill was intended to get more drivers insured to protect the driving public from skyrocketing insurance rates and uninsured drivers.
Cities like New Haven and Hartford have gone a step further and have issued city ID cards to undocumented immigrants. The cards, issued in New Haven since 2007, allow residents to access health clinics, libraries, and other services and actions that require identification, such as opening bank accounts.
“We are a nation of immigrants and, here in Connecticut, we celebrate the value immigrant families bring to our communities and the contributions they make to our economy,” Green said.
Organizers of Monday’s march were concerned about president-elect Donald Trump’s statements on the campaign trail that he would call for an immediate halt on an executive order which instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which allows immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to come out of the shadows and pay a fee to receive a temporary work authorization and protection from deportation.
Tashi Sanchez-Llaury, a student at Southern Connecticut State University, who participated in the DACA program said she’s nervous about what will happen under a Trump presidency. In order to get DACA, undocumented youth have to give a lot of information, including information about their undocumented parents to the federal government.
But Sanchez-Llaury told the marchers that now more than ever is a time to unite and come together in their diversity.
“The more we are, the stronger we are,” Sanchez-Llaury said.
Marchers carried signs for the black community and the LGBTQ community.
She said her biggest fear is for the families who don’t know they have rights.
In the meantime, Sanchez-Llaury said she’s going to wait to see what happens while remaining visible so the Trump administration doesn’t think they are going to just back down or hide and runaway.
Editor’s note: Sanchez-Llaury’s parents have status in the United States and are not undocumented.