‘Our city. Our country’
Undocumented immigrants, supporters rail against U.S. policy
NEW HAVEN — It was not just students who are in limbo, but families from Haiti and Central America whose special protections are being eliminated that brought more than 300 people to rally for revisions to immigration laws Thursday night.
They listened to speakers and chanted as they marched from the steps of First and Summerfield United Methodist Church to the Superior Court and then to City Hall.
Emily Almendarez, a sophomore at Yale University, talked about her father who immigrated from Honduras more than two decades ago and has remained here under Temporary Protective Status, which was given to persons escaping civil
war or environmental disasters.
Nicaraguan residents lost these protections last week and Hondurans are scheduled to lose it next July.
She said those rallying want a clean Dream Act that will continue to protect young people brought here as children by their undocumented parents, but they don’t want to leave other immigrants behind.
“We fighting for a clean Dream Act — yes. But not at the cost of other members of our community. Not through ... ignoring parts of the 11 million undocumented. We will not throw anyone under the bus for the rights of a selected few,” Almendarez told the crowd.
“Our streets. Whose streets? Our streets,” they shouted as they marched. “Whose city? Our city. Whose country? Our country.”
Yemimar Cortes, 19, an undocumented student from Mexico, said she has been here since she was two years old.
“If there is not a clean Dream Act I would feel it in my family, I would feel it in my loved ones and I would feel it in my undocumented community,” she said. She then described her family.
Cortes said her mother has been cleaning houses for 20 years. She said her father works two jobs — construction during the day and as a musician at night. She said they have no health insurance and were always afraid of going to the hospital.
Cortes said a clean Dream Act should protect all immigrants who work hard. “As soon as legislation hurts one of those people ... that’s when we say ‘no Dream Act,’” she said. “We are demanding no more deportations. We are demanding that we protect TPS. We are simply demanding to be human beings living in this world without being scared that we will no longer be able to survive.”
“These things that have been going on in the immigrant community have always been racist . ... We are here to stay,” Cortes said. “We are not a chess game for these politicians to play with.”
Anthony Reyes, the son of Marcos Reyes who has taken sanctuary in First and Summerfield United Methodist Church for the past three months, thanked all those who visit his father.
“This santuary has welcomed us with open arms, but it is not the warm embrace and comfort of his actual home,” he said. “Times are incredibly tough and uncertain times for my family and I, but we continue ... to hold one another up when we feel we are falling.” Reyes, his parents and two sisters are from Meriden.
Two Yale students came to speak on behalf of Viviana Andazola Marquez, a senior at the university, whose father is being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Colorado on an expedited deportation order after she had petitioned to change his status.
“Every day ICE tears families apart without discretion, without conscience,” one of the students, Maya Jenkins, said. She called the immigration system “fundamentally racist, unjust and unacceptable. As students, as neighbors and as people we have a moral responsibility to take a stand and say ‘Hell no, to ICE.””
Jesus Morales Sanchez addressed another concern of the large crowd that was representented by a range of ages.
Standing on the steps of the Superior Court, he said ICE is picking up immigrants who come there as defendants or victims.
“They are putting themselves at risk of being caught by ICE,” he said.
“That is not a coincidence. We have prosecutors in these very courts called ICE on people. They say it is their protocol ... I call that bull...,” he said.
“People are coming here for minor incidents and they have been taken away by ICE . ... We are not going to allow it and we have the names of prosecutors who are engaged in this,” Morales said.
ABOVE: Yenimar Cortes, 19, of New Haven speaks at a rally against immigration law Thursday at First and Summerfield UMC in New Haven. Tashi Sanchez-Laura is to her right. BELOW: Protesters gather at First and Summerfield UMC in New Haven Thursday.
Fausto Canelas of Bridgeport takes a selfie at the rally for undocumented immigrants Thursday in New Haven.