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Local immigrants rights group stands in solidarity with UConn Latino Law Students Association

A cross post from HatCityBLOG

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The Danbury Alliance played a critical role in the 2008 protest against the city’s 287g partnership proposal
City Hall March 2008. Photo by CTBlogger.

In a letter sent to the organizers of the forum on immigration and the workforce at the University of Connecticut as well as the Latino Law Students Association, the Danbury Alliance issued the following statement:

In answer to the accusation that LLSA students attempted to stifle free speech, we are writing this letter to express our solidarity with the stand taken by the LLSA students with respect to having Mayor Mark Boughton and Attorney Vincent of ICE removed as panelists for the symposium on Undocumented Workers in the Workplace hosted by Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal

We are very pleased that Mayor Boughton decided, in view of the strong opposition mounted by the LLSA students, not to take part in the symposium, but are much aggrieved that Attorney Peter S. Vincent was allowed to remain on the panel.

We hope to explain in this letter many of the reasons why we agree that Mayor Mark Boughton was an entirely inappropriate addition to your panelists, why we remain disappointed that Attorney Vincent was not removed and why we feel that the LLSA was wholly justified in seeking the removal of Mayor Boughton and Mr.Vincent

It is our opinion that Mayor Boughton’s interests in speaking on the topic of Immigration were largely influenced by his political aspirations. Mayor Boughton has built his career and name as a “tough on immigration Mayor”. To that end, he has courted the approval and the vote of the radical, anti-immigrant, xenophobic extremists in our city, repeatedly, while simultaneously ignoring the voices of those who present a more reasoned, compassionate, and experienced voice in the matter of Immigration.

We agree with Attorney Peter Goselin that Mayor Boughton was not the right person to speak to the issue of undocumented immigrants in the work force.

Mayor Boughton’s track record with immigrant workers in Danbury is overshadowed by his refusal to address the plight of day laborers in the city. Every day, Elm Street in Danbury is a gathering place of mainly Latino day laborers, many of whom may be undocumented. These laborers are left exposed to abuse, and there is almost no oversight or protections afforded to them. In earlier years, Mayor Boughton was approached about creating a possible day labor center for these workers, which would offer them basic protections. Suggestions were made that the center should offer job training, language training, legal assistance, and access by the workers to the Department of Labor, Unions, and OSHA. Mayor Boughton, after showing an initial interest and support for the idea, later, after much political pressure, withdrew from the talks and became a very active opponent of the proposal.

The much publicized case of the Danbury 11, as referenced by the LLSA students, was a further souring of his relationship with Danbury’s undocumented workers.

Many of the policies which Mayor Boughton and his administration have enacted, and which have been detrimental to our immigrant community, have been supported by members of a well known local anti immigrant hate group, whose former vice president is now facing charges of rape in an unrelated criminal case, and whose other members are regularly seen at Tea Party events, bearing signs with blatantly racist messages.

Another member of this hate group was a one time member of the Republican Common Council in our city, and lost her last election when she was discovered forwarding a series of racist emails, mostly directed towards immigrants, to another member of the Common Council, as well a member of a land-use committee who was appointed by the mayor. Instead of immediately calling for the resignation of these individuals, and despite much public outcry in the matter, Mayor Boughton held a closed door meeting with several leaders of our African American and Latino Communities, and no further action was taken. Thankfully, an aggressive public awareness campaign organized by members of the community led to her electoral defeat. This woman, Pauline Basso, still remains very active in the Republican Town Committee, which Mayor Boughton serves.

Shortly after this event, members of this same hate group brought the idea of the 287g ICE ACCESS program to the attention of Common Council President, Joseph Cavo, advocating for it’s adoption in Danbury. A coalition, including immigrants, advocates, business owners, lawyers, Democratic Council Members, and local non profit agencies, were swift to express concern over the proposed contract between ICE and the Danbury PD. Thorough research was conducted on the negative effect on towns which had adopted this policy, adding greatly to our concerns. Our research unearthed many accounts of Mayors and Police Departments and officials elsewhere who rejected the contract, as it had deteriorated racial relations in their cities, fostered distrust between immigrants and the police force (thus creating safety issues in those municipalities), and led to widespread racial profiling and civil rights abuses. Despite numerous letters of concern and opposition, numerous presentations to the common council and the Mayor, and despite a well organized, historic protest of thousands of immigrants and their supporters in front of city hall, the contract passed approval.

Mayor Boughton’s conduct in the following weeks was anything but honest. In addition to blatantly lying to the press about the number of protestors, in order to dismiss the voices of the thousands who were opposed to the program, it soon became clear that the Administration was engaging in punitive actions to those who spoke out against ICE ACCESS. Soon, non-profit agencies who had voiced concerns were threatened with loss of city funding for their programs, and ICE vehicles were frequently seen driving our streets, parked in front of immigrant restaurants which, needless to say, had a detrimental effect on their business.

Racist threats by members of the extremist groups in the area toward immigrants in our city increased. Despite this being brought to the attention of the Mayor, such events were swept under the carpet, and he failed to make any public statement denouncing the close association between members of his political team and this group (associations that continue to this day).

As far as the presence of an ICE Lawyer on this panel, we feel it necessary to point out that many of the procedures and protocols of ICE have been the subject of lawsuits throughout the country. The widespread abuses within the detention system, the corruption and mishandling of ICE raids, and more have lead to a climate of absolute terror in our immigrant community. These problems have led many to believe that the immigration issue is the civil rights and human rights struggle of the era. The terror tactics of ICE have been sharply rebuked by civil rights groups such as the ACLU, NLG, and even by members of the current federal administration.

While aspiring politicians, and fame seeking public officials such as Mayor Mark Boughton continue to exploit what is most definitely a marginalized and terrified segment of our population by coercive, forceful, manipulative and dishonest tactics in the name of political gain, human lives hang in the balance, as do the very ideas of justice and equality.

We hope that in the future, if similar symposiums are organized, a special effort will be made to heed the opinions of the Latino Student body, and that far more care is taken in the selection of participating panelists.

Our immigrant brothers and sisters have suffered much at the hands of the mutually beneficial relationship between this Mayor and ICE, and we believe that it is time that our systems of higher education take a moral and ethical stand on issues such as this.

It hasn’t been that many years since the study and practice of Eugenics was eagerly entertained at universities throughout New England and the US, leading to further atrocities here and overseas. In time, that failed and morally bankrupt study has become a seething sore upon our national conscience.

We are confident that the policies of ICE and of Mayor Mark Boughton and his administration, as well as those who share his views, will one day be viewed in the same light.

With respect,

Members of the Danbury Alliance

Formerly known as the Danbury Partnership for Unity, the members of the Danbury Alliance were instrumental in organizing local resistance against the 287g proposal back in late 2007-early 2008. Their efforts resulted in businesses and over a thousand people protesting against Boughton and the Common Council’s approval of the controversial program.