Junta for Progressive Action, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the Latino community in New Haven, has generated controversy within the community after the organization fired of two of its staff members for unknown reasons.
A petition calling for the removal of Junta’s executive director Sandra Trevino, who initiated the firings, began circulating online last week and has since gathered almost 200 signatures. The petition states that Junta has been an important resource for the Latino community in New Haven for almost 50 years, but that community members became concerned when the organization fired two staff members this summer “with no reasonable grounds.” Trevino declined to comment.
The petition states that resources like Junta are especially critical in light of “growing hostility and violence facing immigrant communities under the Trump regime” and asks that, in addition to removing Trevino, the board of directors become more inclusive of the community it serves.
“No one wants to damage Junta. Junta has been doing a wonderful job, but they can’t keep doing it with this director,” said John Lugo, a New Haven activist with Unidad Latina en Acción, who said the staff members fired were long-time activists and leaders of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance.
Lugo said he did not start the petition, and said it came from concerned members of the community. An email to the address associated with the petition on Change.org was not returned.
Lugo added that two staff members and several members of the board resigned from Junta following the double firing, including Alicia Schmidt Camacho, a Yale professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration.
Camacho confirmed that she resigned from Junta’s board after the staff members were fired, but declined to comment on the board controversy and said she had no role in the petition.
Among the petition signees was Devianis Gonzalez, a member of New Haven’s Latino community. In a comment on the petition site, she said Junta is a very important part of the community and has a highly qualified, passionate and efficient staff. However, she said Junta’s leadership must continue to represent and practice fairness in the community, which it did not do by firing the staffers without reason.
She said she wants the organization’s directors to issue a public apology and rehire of the fired staff members.
Rafael Ramos, co-chair of Junta’s Board of Directors, provided a statement from the board, saying they remain committed to their dual roles of advocacy and direct service and will do what is necessary to ensure Junta continues to be a strong advocacy organization.
“We are going through difficult times when both the resources for direct services and the rights we look to protect for our community are under threat,” the statement read. “It is not surprising that in these times there are disagreements about the best path forward.”
The statement went on to say the board is aware that community members have raised concerns about “personnel changes at Junta and how those changes were carried out,” and that the board believes that all those involved are “good people” with a commitment to social justice.
The statement asked that community members bear with Junta as they align their work with the needs of the community during difficult times, which the board anticipates will include further changes.
Sara Tabin | firstname.lastname@example.org