Latin music, Salsa dancing, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and 200 members of the Yale community kicked off New Haven Solidarity Week in Dwight Hall on Monday evening.
The festivities marked the beginning of a five-day series of events aimed at mobilizing Yale students, administrators and faculty members to sign up for the Elm City Municipal ID Program. NHSW, which was launched by 26 undergraduate and graduate student groups, is meant to foster a sense of community between Yale and New Haven, organizers said.
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At NHSW registration drives set up in Dwight Hall over the next week, undergraduates will be able to receive municipal IDs after presenting their Yale IDs, a state or federal photo ID and $10. Graduate students and employees will also need to provide a proof of residency — such as a utilities bill — rather than showing a Yale ID.
Frances Kelley ’08, Social Justice Network liaison to the Dwight Hall Executive Committee and a co-coordinator of NHSW, said this week’s events demonstrate that members of the Yale community are also New Haven residents and thus have an obligation to “claim our residency … and be responsible.”
“Yale would not be here without the city, without the work that is done by people who live in New Haven,” she said.
Kelley said NHSW is a chance to educate students about community issues such as Department of Homeland Security raids on immigrants in the Fair Haven neighborhood this past summer, as well as the broader social-contract movement in New Haven.
“I think it gives us a chance to reflect more critically about Yale’s relationship with New Haven,” she said.
Speaking in front of a Dwight Hall audience comprising students, community members and faculty, DeStefano said Monday that the municipal ID program captures the spirit of inclusiveness that has made America great.
“In many respects just as it is about how we see ourselves as a community, it’s about how America sees itself,” DeStefano said. “Does it see itself as a small nation, or does it see itself as a great nation?”
DeStefano said the card is meant to create a sense of common purpose among New Haven’s various communities.
“It’s not the illegal immigrant card, it’s not a Latino card — it’s an Elm City resident card,” he said. “It’s about how we think about ourselves and how we think about ourselves as a community.”
American studies professor Alicia Schmidt Camacho, a board member of the immigrant-rights group JUNTA for Progressive Action, said while it has sparked international attention, the Elm City ID program also calls for a new social contract involving traditionally marginalized residents.
Camacho said opponents of the program have portrayed undocumented immigrants as disrespectful of the rule of law, but such a characterization shows a lack of understanding of what rule of law actually means.
“The first law is that no human being is illegal,” she said.
Other speakers at the event included Ben Gonzalez ’09, political action chair of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, Local 34 union President Laura Smith and Unidad Latina en Accion President John Lubo.
Ward 22 Alderman Gregory Morehead, Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek ’05 and Rachel Plattus ’09 — who is running in an uncontested election for the seat Shalek will vacate in January — were among the first in line to get their municipal IDs.
Dwight Hall Executive Committee co-Coordinator and NHSW co-Coordinator Lauren Jacobson ’08 said she felt a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm in support of the municipal ID program coming from large segments of the Yale community at the kick-off.
“I think the underlying theme was inclusiveness and community and that we are coming into this as Elm City residents,” Jacobson said. “This is about all of us being on the same footing and all having the same dignity and claim as part of the community.”
If NHSW succeeds in signing up 1,100 students to receive IDs, the city will have registered 5,000 IDs, Jacobson said.