Residents of New Haven, Stamford, Danbury and Bridgeport experienced a “Day Without Immigrants” on Monday, May 1, as locals took to the streets to call for permanent protection for the 11 million undocumented workers in the United States.
Immigrants, families, workers and business owners gathered together on International Workers’ Day to join a national strike intended to show that the country runs on immigrant work. New Haven’s strike was organized by a coalition of local activist groups that included immigrants rights groups Unidad Latina en Acción and JUNTA for Progressive Action.
The day began with over 450 congregating on the New Haven Green at 4:30 p.m. Organizations including Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible and Food Not Bombs set up information booths on the Green while local artists performed for the crowd.
“We are here to advocate for immigration reform. It is the only way we are going to save lives,” Gini King, a volunteer with Shoreline Indivisible, told the News.
Present at the event was Luis Barrios, a father of four U.S. citizens who is facing deportation on May 4. Barrios has lived in Connecticut for 25 years and has no criminal convictions. He was apprehended by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when police arrested him in 2011 for driving a car with a broken tail light. He now faces deportation back to Guatemala, where several of his family members have been murdered in recent years due to political unrest and violence.
He, along with several other immigrants, joined the walk this Monday, believing it to be an important step towards securing a safer future, according to the event’s press release.
“This May Day Strike is the first in a series of national strikes and boycotts that will intensify,” said ULA co-founder John Lugo in a press release. “After years of broken promises from politicians, we have woken up to the reality that only we can protect our communities. When we go on strike, when we divest from the banks and businesses that are exploiting us, this country will not take us for granted. We will make our families safe.”
Following the rally, over 20 community organizations then marched to the Fair Haven neighborhood, where some immigrant business had shut down for the day in protest. These organizations included ULA, Junta, Connecticut Students for a Dream, Showing Up for Racial Justice and People Against Police Brutality.
The route of the march was purposeful, community organizers told the News. They first visited a nail salon where workers are currently owed unpaid wages, then continued on to a bank that funds oil pipelines, which community organizers say are exploiting undocumented immigrants and putting them in dangerous working conditions. They then continued onto the site where Malik Jones was killed by police 20 years ago. 21-year old Jones was killed by a white police officer from East Haven who reported that Jones’ car was moving erratically and at a high speed. When Jones pulled into an empty parking lot, his car was boxed in by police vehicles, and was shot repeatedly at close range. The event was considered a landmark case of police brutality and caused outrage from political, academic and religious groups.
Organizers highlighted that the march was also meant to emphasize a historical, systemic divide between immigrant and colored communities and figures of authority. The march ended at the Fair Haven neighborhood, the site of a 2007 ICE raid that led to 30 arrests.
Other “Day Without Immigrant” marches occurred in Newark, New Jersey; Memphis; Albany, New York; Milwaukee and other cities throughout the nation.