Gubernatorial Candidate Mark Boughton: Reformed on Immigration?


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Photo: NBC Connecticut

Wayne Jebian

Has Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton changed his tune on immigration issues now that he is running for Governor?  According to  CTStudents for a DREAM (C4D), a statewide organization of immigrant youth, allies, and families, which  works for the rights and empowerment of immigrant youth and their families,  Boughton, they say, has taken a dramatic turn on his stance regarding immigrants in recent years. Boughton announced he is a candidate for the GOP nomination for Governor last week.
CTStudents for a DREAM (C4D) issued the public statement through Danbury resident and former Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) student Carolina Bortolleto.  Bortoletto, who is from Brazil, serves as college access coordinator of C4D and she, along with her twin sister, Carolina, have served as the public face of the organization and the immigrant advocacy movement that it represents.
The statement, which CTLatinoNews verified with Bortoletto, states that although Boughton has had a contentious history with Danbury’s immigrant community, he has made efforts to correct his anti-immigrant stance.
The CT Students for a DREAM statement read:
“Mark Boughton has served as the Mayor of Danbury for 10 years – during that time the City’s immigrants have seen many lows, but also many highs. In 2006, Danbury became the only town in CT that signed a 287(g) agreement with ICE – which deputized 2 local police officers to conduct immigration investigations. This partnership caused a severe break in trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community. Fearing deportation, many immigrants, the lifeblood of the local economy, left Danbury. The economy suffered and a once vibrant main street saw many businesses closed.
 Since then, however, 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. Now that Mayor Boughton has announced his official run for Governor this year, we hope he takes the hard lessons he learned in Danbury to heart. Immigrants are good for our towns and for our state. Anti-immigrant policy is not only detrimental to our immigrant community, but the well-being of the state.”
In 2006,  Boughton angered the immigrant communities of  Danbury and the rest of the state when he began to publicly criticize the fast growing immigrant community in Danbury, going on national news programs to talk about the impact of immigrants on his city.
Last week, after he declared his candidacy, Boughton  side stepped questions from CTLatinoNews on his current immigration policy views, saying only,  “The laws of the United States should be followed. The problem with the immigration processes right now is that they are chaotic; they are confusing; they are unenforceable. That has led to a system in which people ignore the law, which is bad public policy.  I think that the federal government should act; it should have acted years ago to streamline the process.”
Boughton was not entirely clear about how he would enforce immigration law on a day-today basis.
CTLatinoNew asked several prominent Latino politicians for their reaction to this report about Boughton’s alleged change of heart. Reactions uniformly reflected shock and disbelief, none more so than from state representative Juan Candelaria (D-New Haven), who has led what some have called a crusade on behalf of the state’s immigrant residents, fighting for in-state tuition and drivers’ licenses for undocumented residents.
“Did I hear that correctly?” asked Candelaria after being read part of the Dreamers’ statement. “People don’t change overnight! Just because someone from their town is running for governor, do they forget about the suffering that their families, and so many other families, went through?”
“I would have to see it to be convinced,” were the first words from Joe Rodriguez, chair of the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus, referring to Bortoletto’s statement. “So many of us fought against the ideas that he stood for, especially around immigration. I remember going to rallies.” Rodriguez then conceded the point that since he isn’t a Danbury resident, there might be recent developments that he has missed.
State Senator Andres Ayala had a very similar reaction to the news. After initial speechlessness, he said, “maybe the folks in Danbury have seen something that the rest of us have not been privy to.”
Bortelloto’s statement on behalf of CTStudents for a DREAM  also stated that the organization has no official position on his run for governor.  It said, “Our only duty is to ensure the best interest of our community is served.”