Advocates march to the state Capitol on May 1, 2023 Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

A group of immigrant activists marched Monday to the state Capitol where they rallied for passage of legislation including an expansion of Medicaid eligibility for undocumented children and stable scheduling requirements for service industry workers. 

Dozens of people gathered to mark International Workers Day in Hartford’s Bushnell Park. They shouted, alternatively in Spanish and English, slogans of solidarity for the state’s immigrant workforce and demands for state policymakers as they marched from the muddy turf of the park, across Trinity Street and assembled in front of the Capitol’s south-facing portico. 

“We are here as organizations, residents of Connecticut, and elected officials to demand better policies that guarantee the basic human rights of Black, brown, immigrant and working class communities,” said Veronica Ubaldo, a Mexican immigrant and member of the advocacy group Make the Road Connecticut. 

On the group’s agenda were legislative proposals requiring many larger employers to publish work schedules two weeks in advance and compensate employees if their shifts are changed on short notice. 

Another bill attempts to ensure access to translation services for English language learner students and their families. The group pushed for affordable housing and rent cap policies that have since been defeated. They also called on legislators to expand Medicaid eligibility to otherwise eligible undocumented immigrants beyond the state’s current threshold at 12 years old. 

Bushnell Rally
Activists rally in Bushnell Park Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

The immigrant workers’ push comes at a critical time for the legislature, where leaders are in the midst of negotiating a state budget for the next two years. The success or failure of most bills depends on whether a concept can secure funding in that eventual budget document, which despite an expected surplus, will be tightly constrained by fiscal constraints. 

One of the final pieces of the budget picture, updates on the state’s projected revenues, was expected to fall into place later Monday. 

Some of the proposals sought by the advocates seem unlikely to make much headway in the remaining five weeks of the legislative session. For instance, policies capping increases in rent amounts already failed to advance out of the legislature’s Housing Committee this year. 

Other bills remain in play. The legislature’s spending committee was expected to consider a version of the predictable scheduling requirements as one of 95 items up for review during an afternoon meeting. If advanced by the Appropriations Committee, the bill would return to the House, where lawmakers declined to vote on a similar proposal last year. 

The House will also consider the “English Learners’ Bill of Rights,” which was proposed this year by Gov. Ned Lamont. 

Meanwhile, a version of the expansion of Medicaid for undocumented people has already been included in the Appropriations Committee’s spending recommendations. The panel called for spending $3 million to increase eligibility for otherwise eligible children from the age of 12 to 15. Leaders of the panel argued the state had not yet been able to gauge the fiscal impact of the last expansion, which went into effect earlier this year. 

During Monday’s rally, advocates said the contemplated expansion did not go far enough. 

“As parents, we want it expanded for all ages, but we learned that they only want to expand to age 15 this year. For shame,” said Guadalupe Escamilla, a 37 year-old mother from Mexico who is now a resident of Hartford. “For us, who have worked so hard, to be given this news at this point with all that we have fought.”