Two weeks before Thanksgiving, Yale students have already been showing solidarity with their fellow man.
New Haven Solidarity Week — a collaborative effort among 26 undergraduate and graduate student groups that ended Friday — saw over 550 members of the Yale community sign up for the Elm City Resident Card program. The five-day series of discussions and panels that were part of NHSW were designed to raise awareness about the new program, organizers said.
Although organizers said the event exceeded their expectations, members of the Community Watchdog Project — an anti-illegal-aliens group that has been vocal in its opposition to the program — said they were “unimpressed” by the event, which they said was nothing more than City Hall ploy to boost the number of ID application.
But students who attended the forums during the week said they were pleased with the events, which they hope will return in future years.
In an interview with the News last month, Community Services administrator Kica Matos said City Hall is aiming to distribute a total of 5,000 IDs. Prior to NHSW, the city had given out about 3,900 IDs to residents, event organizers said.
The week began with a kickoff meeting featuring a speech by Mayor John DeStefano Jr. Discussions held during the week included panels on the Fair Haven raids, a Yale American Civil Liberties Union-hosted debate on the merits of an all-resident municipal ID card and a talk on interfaith solidarity with undocumented immigrants.
The municipal ID program — the first of its kind in the United States — can be used by all New Haven residents, regardless of age or immigration status, as a form of identification for city services.
The program went into effect in July.
The creation of the municipal ID program came on the heels of a June 6 Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on families in the predominantly Latino Fair Haven neighborhood, which led to the arrest of 32 residents.
Several NHSW organizers said they were impressed by the turnout at the panels.
Jessica Bialecki ’08 — co-coordinator of Dwight Hall’s executive committee and an NHSW organizer — said she did not know how many participants to expect but was “blown away” by the number of student groups who joined.
But some attendees were not quite as approving. Leaders of Community Watchdog Project attended at least three of NHSW’s events “just to learn,” they said.
In October, CWP circulated a petition among Local 35 union members calling on the union to discontinue transferring member dues to UNITE HERE, a national affiliate supportive of immigrants’ rights. Local 35 includes Yale’s service and maintenance employees.
CWP Press Secretary Veronica Kivela attended several of the discussions and said the week seemed like a “bail-out plan” to strengthen a dwindling number of ID recipients. She said she thinks DeStefano is trying to use Yale students as part of his “grand scheme to support lawbreakers.”
“[City Hall] deals with ethereal goals and emotions,” she said. “It’s all very altruistic — and I don’t see altruism as a virtue.”
But NHSW coordinator Jason Blau ’08 disagreed, saying the CWP members missed the learning opportunities available during the week because of their preconceived notions.
“They have a vendetta against the mayor, and they allow [it] to cloud their reasoning on every other aspect, and that’s unfortunate,” Blau said.
Dwight Hall ExComm public relations coordinator and NHSW organizer Margaret Sharp ’09 said she thinks the week was an overall success. The only flaw during the week, she said, was that because so many students came to apply for an ID Friday afternoon, they had to send students away at the end of the session before they could submit their ID applications.
Hugh Baran ’09, a member of Dwight Hall not involved with NHSW, said he hopes organizers put on the event again next year because of its “powerful diversity” of discussion topics. The week made members of the Yale community understand they were also citizens of New Haven, he said.
Ward 22 Alderman Greg Morehead, outgoing Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek ’05 and incoming Ward 1 Alderwoman Rachel Plattus ’09 all received municipal IDs at Dwight Hall last week.