The power of the Connecticut Latino community’s vote is no longer a secret. Since the election of Governor Malloy, and subsequently, President Obama, it seems every Republican politician has suddenly realized that their Latino constituency really can swing an election. Mayor Mark Boughton is no exception. Now that he is a declared candidate for Governor, his attempts to soften what once was a hard-line approach against immigrants residing in his city is painfully obvious. But actions speak louder than words. Mayor Boughton may have learned that he cannot ignore the Latino vote. However, it is unlikely that he has learned the most important lesson: you cannot run from your record.
This change of heart by Boughton regarding immigrants was made public in a statement issued by CT Students for a DREAM and reported by CTLatinoNews.com. The CTStudents for a DREAM is an advocacy organization for immigration reform which stated, “Mayor Boughton has become closer to the Latino and immigrant community in Danbury, and has made efforts to correct his once widely known anti-immigrant stance.”
When asked about the possibility that Mayor Boughton may have softened his views on undocumented immigrants, established Latino political leaders rightfully reacted with dismay. Mayor Boughton may be counting on voters’ short memory, but he is not counting on the fact that, when a community is aggrieved enough, it doesn’t forget. Consider the facts:
Mayor Boughton not only supported, but led the charge to deputize local police as federal immigration officers to pursue, even persecute, undocumented immigrants. The message was clear: You are not wanted here – and we will do everything in our power to track you down if you are not a documented immigrant. In a highly controversial move in 2006, 11 day laborers were rounded up and arrested as part of a sting. Amounting to a harassment campaign against immigrants, this case prompted a civil rights suit against the city, costing Danbury taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in a settlement due to Mark Boughton’s actions.
Boughton also took aim at the broader Hispanic community by trying to limit activities, like volleyball games, that are more prevalent in immigrant neighborhoods. With a clear NIMBY aim, he pushed the Danbury police to crack down on seven community gatherings that included volleyball games, claiming that the activities amounted to illegal businesses. Code enforcement officers issued cease-and-desist orders for seven properties. By specifically targeting the activities and properties of a select group, Mayor Boughton’s actions can be described as nothing more than unadulterated discrimination.
Mayor Boughton has made it clear that his opinion of Latino immigrants is a negative one. With words like, “the problem is we have undocumented people here, who are not contributing to the system, but rather putting pressure on it” (News-Times 6/29/05), he makes the sweeping assumption that Latino immigrants are here for the sole purpose to suck the system dry. He has gone so far as to criticize Connecticut’s own DREAM act, a law that aims to provide access to a higher education for children of immigrants.
In the end, Boughton’s actions and statements only served to create an environment that is hostile to immigrant families – families who do in fact contribute to our economy and our standard of living. Immigrant-owned businesses have left town and families live in fear. With local police acting as immigration agents, families are even afraid to call authorities in cases of emergency.
You can run, but you cannot hide. Mayor Boughton, please own up to your record.
Evelyn Mantilla, served in the Connecticut General Assembly as a State Representative for 10 years. She was the first Hispanic woman to serve as Deputy Majority Leader of the House and also the first openly gay woman in the Connecticut General Assembly. She is currently a political strategist on Latino voters for the Connecticut Democratic Party and is a CTLatinoNews.com contributor.
Photo: Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton courtesy of News-Times.com