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Latino groups march on CT state Capitol on International Labor Day to demand legislative change

Helen Quiñonez, a Bridgeport based community organizer with Make the Road Connecticut, leads a march up to the capitol building. On May first, International Worker's Day, Make the Road was among several groups that marched in Hartford to demand legislators provide equitable education, affordable housing, open healthcare, and protect the rights of immigrant workers.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Helen Quiñonez, a Bridgeport based community organizer with Make the Road Connecticut, leads a march up to the capitol building. On May first, International Worker's Day, Make the Road was among several groups that marched in Hartford to demand legislators provide equitable education, affordable housing, open healthcare, and protect the rights of immigrant workers.

Latino community members and advocates marched at the Connecticut state Capitol in Hartford Monday to commemorate International Labor Day and ensure that immigrant families in the state have access to the resources they need.

They’re calling on Gov. Ned Lamont and the state legislature to ensure a fair and humane immigration system. Advocates want to see health care coverage expanded for undocumented immigrants, more affordable housing, fair working conditions maintained and a more equitable education system for students who speak English as a second language.

Members of the The ELL Students & Parent Coalition for English Language Learners rallied at the march and say many Spanish-speaking parents are still not able to communicate with their children’s teachers. They want lawmakers to pass the English Language Learners Bill of Rights.

Eric Sarmiento, who is from Mexico and has three adopted sons from Guatemala, says he’s been having a really hard time adjusting to the Connecticut school system. He mostly speaks Spanish and his sons speak Chuj, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala and Mexico, and his school doesn’t have the resources to help them with the language barrier.

“I have to find my own [translator] to translate for them. It’s been very hard. It’s been super complicated to communicate with the school,” Sarmiento said.

State Rep. Antonio Felipe, D-Bridgeport, who co-sponsored the bill, says he’s waiting for it to make it to the House floor. He believes once it does make it there, it will get bipartisan support.

“The right for somebody to be able to speak their native language and be understood when they’re advocating for their child is very important. In Bridgeport we already do it impromptu, but in other places people don’t have the services and we wanted to make sure the state can provide that so folks can get the help they need,” Felipe said.

Felipe said that in other districts across the state, schools don’t have enough language teachers to fill the gap of households who don’t speak English at home.

“Right now, some people are in a really tough place,” he said. “Even in Bridgeport where we do well enough where we can speak to people in their language, paper materials that are sent home aren’t sent in both languages. So, they might not be able to read their report card and that’s pretty important.”

Lesley Cosme Torres is an Education Reporter at Connecticut Public. She reports on education inequities across the state and also focuses on Connecticut's Hispanic and Latino residents, with a particular focus on the Puerto Rican community. Her coverage spans from LGBTQ+ discrimination in K-12 schools, book ban attempts across CT, student mental health concerns, and more. She reports out of Fairfield county and Hartford.