Latino groups march on Connecticut Capitol to demand legislative change
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.”