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Immigrants' Advocates Rally to Protest Family Deportations

Advocates will rally for immigrantsí rights at noon on Wednesday in New Haven. (ULANewHaven.org)
Advocates will rally for immigrantsí rights at noon on Wednesday in New Haven. (ULANewHaven.org)
January 5, 2016

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Advocates for immigrants in Connecticut will be using street theater to teach Central American refugees their rights if immigration agents come to their doors.

The Wednesday event in New Haven is in response to nationwide raids begun over the weekend. The raids target families who fled violence in their home countries, but whose asylum claims were turned down in immigration courts.

Karim Calle with Unidad Latina en Accion, or ULA, says most had no legal assistance when they filed their claims.

"If they don't have an attorney, they don't know what their rights are," says Calle. "So, these families most likely get deported because they just don't know how to present themselves during court."

According to ULA, surveys show almost three-quarters of children who have legal representation are granted asylum, compared to only 15 percent of those who had no lawyer.

The families being targeted by immigration raids were among a surge of immigrants entering the country beginning in early 2014. Calle points out that most were not simply looking for economic opportunities, they were trying to escape the violence in their home countries.

"Many of them are fleeing from domestic violence, from gang violence, from rape, death threats," says Calle.

An investigation by the Guardian newspaper found that since 2014, as many as 83 deportees to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras were murdered shortly after their return.

ULA estimates there are almost 200 women and children in Connecticut who fled violence in Central America but may be subject to deportation. In response, Calle says they are asking Mayor Toni Harp to distribute a "know-your-rights" flier in New Haven public schools.

"We really want to educate everyone and let them know what their rights are," Calle says. "If they need legal representation, we have the appropriate resources to provide that representation."

She says in 2007, when federal authorities launched a series of immigration raids in New Haven, the community took action and succeeded in halting those raids.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT