A new grassroots organization has been created to help provide a public voice to, and bring together members of, East Haven's immigrant community — while also working to open a positive and productive dialogue among residents of the town as a whole.
The group, Community Immigrants of East Haven, is the organizing force behind the .
And group leaders are hoping next weekend's event will be the first of many important steps on a path of reaching out and working with other groups and leaders in town, in hopes of unifying and bringing together all residents of East Haven.
"The people are divided and they need to come together," Herman Zuniga, the president of Community Immigrants of East Haven, told East Haven Patch during a phone interview this morning.
"We don't want to be an outsider that acts as an outside entity… we want to create a march to show solidarity with all the people," Zuniga said.
So far, he said, the group has held three meetings, including one last night and a Feb. 9 gathering at which the new organization elected its leadership board, including Zuniga.
Zuniga, who is a native of Ecuador, moved to in 2002 when he bought a house here. Prior to that move, he had been working full time for an East Haven-based company and so he spent much of his time here in town.
Zuniga said most of Community Immigrants of East Haven's 130 or so members have a similar background: they are immigrants to America who live and/or work in the town.
"We are just ," he said.
The group has received some assistance from civil rights and immigrant-related organizations, but the operation remains East Haven based. Community Immigrants of East Haven will also be looking to open up a physical office space some time soon, he said.
Zuniga added that while a majority of its members are Latino, the group is open to any and all immigrants who are also East Haven residents.
"All nationalities are welcome," Zuniga said.
Much of the same can be said for next Saturday's march.
Zuniga said all East Haven residents are welcome to participate in the event, not just its immigrant community.
"This is an open march," he said.
'A Platform of Discourse'
Although group members are hoping their work will be a starting point for bridging the gap between the town's immigrant community and other residents, Zuniga pointed out that by East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo's and deeply concerned by of four officers for of Latino residents and others.
"These are shameful acts by the police and mayor," he said.
Zuniga said many Latino residents and business owners who are group members received a letter from the mayor inviting them to the library today at 11 a.m. for a meeting.
At that same time, Maturo held a planned press conference to introduce to the press and community.
But Zuniga said group members felt it wasn't the right time for such a meeting.
He added, however, that through the work of the group and others in the community — and hopefully starting with next weekend's march — a path "toward unity and path for justice and a path for reconciliation" can be created.
"We want to start a platform of discourse to start a healing process," he said.