Puerto Rican and Latino Studies. Other universities, such as Southern Connecticut State University, now offer specialized programs in Latin American Studies. In 1995 Connecticut was one of the first states in the country to establish a State Commission on Puerto Rican and Latino Affairs. This commission reviews and monitors the impact of state legislation on the Latino community. One of the critical leaders in this institution is Commissioner Fernando Betancourt, who has held his position since the commission’s inception.
In 2001, Eddie Perez became the first Puerto Rican and Latino mayor of a capital city in the United States. His victory in Hartford was monumental for the Puerto Rican community, which had gained many leadership seats on the City Council but had not been able to obtain this critical position for Latino leadership in the city. In 2007 Mayor Perez was elected to a second term in office.
During the past 18 years, from 1990 to 2008, the differences between the immigration statuses of Latin American and Caribbean populations working in Connecticut have divided populations and prevented labor organization. Recent crackdowns on trafficking in persons by the U.S. Department of Labor (April 2007) on nursery operators (such as Imperial Nurseries in Granby) illustrate one example of a vertically integrated U.S. agro-industry that employs large numbers of Latino and Latin American workers.35
New Haven has recently made national news for the decision to provide a city identification card (CID) to all residents, without respect to their immigration status.36 This controversial measure at the national level has received positive endorsement from immigrant rights groups nationwide. Although the CID provides identification necessary for banking and other services, the CID could also be used to identify those who are undocumented migrants if the data is available under the Freedom of Information Act. Also in 2007, the Connecticut Legislature passed The Dream Act to allow undocumented students with special criteria the option to apply for and enroll in state higher education institutions by paying in-state tuition. The measure was vetoed by Governor Rell.
Contrastingly, Danbury is the site of a new policy, approved in February 2008, which consolidates the authority for immigration enforcement in both state and local police to supplement ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). This is the first such policy adopted in the United States. The policy was created in response to the labor recruitment of migrants from Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic to fill growing blue-collar jobs in the Danbury regional economy (population approximately 80,000). Latinos now represent approximately 15.8 percent of the population in Danbury, and this population grew at a rate of 133.7 percent from 1990 to 2000.37 The visibility of Latin American and Caribbean workers organizing soccer games and waiting on street corners for day-labor jobs at Kennedy Park drew the attention of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to Danbury. On September 19, 2006, eleven
migrants from Ecuador were detained and promptly shipped to Harlingen, Texas. The National Lawyers Guild, the ACLU, and the Yale Law School Clinic provided legal assistance to the families and workers of the nicknamed Danbury 11. These two measures have serious implications for the state’s growing undocumented Latin American and Caribbean populations, who will form the future Latino communities of Connecticut.38.