On Wednesday, undocumented immigrants and immigrants’ rights activists released a video filmed primarily in New Haven to respond to a series of nationwide deportation raids targeting undocumented immigrants.
The raids, led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were denounced by New Haven immigrants’ rights organizations — including Unidad Latina en Accion — and Mayor Toni Harp soon after ICE announced its intent to begin raids in early January. Wednesday’s video, which features footage from Fair Haven — a New Haven neighborhood with a large Central and South American immigrant population — is one of many activist efforts to persuade the government to halt deportations.
Kica Matos, the director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change, a national immigrant advocacy group that works with groups like ULA, compiled the video with media consultant Frank Chi, a New Haven resident who emigrated from China at age seven. Matos and Chi released the video through Reform Immigration for America, an online organization that advocates for comprehensive and humane immigration reform.
“It is our intention to escalate our actions until the deportations stop, so we expect to be engaging in edgier actions in the coming weeks, including civil disobedience,” Matos said in an email to the News.
John Lugo, a ULA organizer, helped Matos and Chi compile footage sourced by ULA members and friends living primarily in Fair Haven. The video features scenes of immigrants in New Haven at various businesses, schools and other locations around the Elm City.
While the video was initially intended to respond to “the xenophobia and racism that have emerged as a result of the Republican primaries,” the announced raids caused the video’s direction to change, Matos said. She added that the release of the video is a direct appeal for ICE to stop deportations.
The video is the latest in a series of social activism disparaging the deportations. ULA led a rally with the New Haven immigrant community on Jan. 6, just days after ICE announced the raids. Harp joined protestors and reassured them that the New Haven Police Department and the rest of her administration would not cooperate with ICE if they came knocking on Elm City doors, ULA organizer Karim Calle said.
Calle said many families stopped sending their children to public schools in New Haven, fearing ICE would remove them from classrooms and sequester them. But, Calle said, Harp assured rally attendees that it was safe for children to attend schools and for undocumented immigrants to be out in public without fear of being taken into federal custody.
“We came fleeing from violence and the slavery of child labor,” Luis Miguel Díaz, an indigenous Mayan Guatemalan and New Haven high-school student, said at the rally. “Here we have the right to live and get an education. We have something to give this community. We have found opportunities here, and we won’t let President Obama detain our families and take that away from us.”
While ICE has not yet carried out raids in Connecticut, Calle said the federal agency could arrive in New Haven at any time. She said the future for the immigrant community is uncertain.
ULA was founded in 2002 by Guatemalan immigrants.