Rougly 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I have a dream” speech, “Dreamers” gathered in front of New Haven’s federal courthouse yesterday to rally for comprehensive immigration reform in President Barack Obama’s second term.
About 50 people braved the snow and arrived on the steps of the courthouse at 4 p.m. carrying signs and chanting slogans like “No one is illegal. Stop deporting people.” The rally, which used Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Obama’s inauguration as a cry for widespread immigration reform, was sponsored by activist groups in New Haven including Unidad Latina en Accion, Amistad Catholic Worker, Junta for Progressive Action and the Yale Divinity School Seminarians for a Democratic Society. Those interviewed differed in their priorities for immigration reform, but all voiced hope that the next four years will bring more reform than the last four.
“[Obama] announced that he was going to do immigration reform and … 1.5 million people are still waiting,” said John Lugo, who is involved in Unidad Latina in Accion. “Again he’s promising immigration reform. I feel like he’s going to do it, but we need to push for the people to remind him that we’re going to be here on the streets today and on.”
The past four years have been somewhat of a disappointment for those hoping for immigration reform in the United States. According to the Migration Policy Institute, the Obama administration has spent more money on regulating, detaining and deporting immigrants than it did on all other forms of law enforcement combined. One of the most controversial immigration policies of the Obama administration is the Secure Communities program, which is designed to deport violent criminals but has been criticized for unnecessarily targeting those who were never convicted of a felony.
Those interviewed at the rally said they are hopeful that the next four years will bring about different immigration reform policies. Jordan Scruggs DIV ’15, a members of Seminarians for a Democratic Society, an activist group composed of Yale Divinity School students, said she hopes there are changes to Secure Communities so that people like Josemaria Islas, who sparked an outcry in the immigrant community after being detained as a nonviolent undocumented worker, will not be affected by the program. Juan Diaz ’15, a member of MEChA, a student activist organization at Yale, said he would like to see a legal pathway to citizenship created.
Mark Colville, who has been involved in Amistad Catholic Worker, a community center that serves breakfast and lunch and sometimes provides people with a place to stay, said he observes first hand the difficulties immigrants face. “Pain is something we see on an everyday basis,” Colville said, adding that he wishes the people who made immigration laws “had a connection with that pain because they really would approach it in a more sane way, and in a more humane way.”
As the snow continued to fall, people kept waving their signs, sharing their stories and calling for change. “Basic reform is about accomplishing the dream that Martin Luther King taught us to dream about,” said Gregory Williams DIV ’15, a Divinity School student involved in Seminarians for a Democratic Society.
Secure Communities was implemented statewide Feb. 22.