Holding police accountable and protecting the rights of immigrants were the main issues at the annual Lobby Day organized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut on March 26, 2013.

The event drew people to the state Capitol to learn about four bills on the legislative agenda this session and how to lobby their legislators on those and other matters. The four bills would set standards for how police departments accept complaints about officer misconduct; protect privacy by requiring police to discard license plate scan data; set training and reporting standards for police deployment of Tasers; and set guidelines for police on when to hold people on immigration detainers under the federal Secure Communities program.

The session was sponsored by the ACLU of Connecticut, the NAACP of Connecticut, the Connecticut State Missionary Baptist Convention, the Connecticut Immigrants' Rights Alliance and SEIU Local 32BJ. Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, welcomed the co-sponsors and their members and told them that as the courts have become increasingly hostile, the ACLU has found that legislative advocacy s another means to defend and advance civil liberties.

Lobbyist Betty Gallo of Betty Gallo and Co. explained to the crowd that her efforts to pass civil rights legislation could not succeed without their help because legislators respond to their constituents' concerns. "People talking to their legislators makes legislation pass," she said. "It is so valuable."

Dr. Boise Kimber, president of the Connecticut State Baptist Missionary Convention, compared the group gathered for Lobby Day to Gideon's Army in the biblical account. "We can win this fight. We can win it if we stick together and if we stay together," he said. "Our voice can be heard and will be heard."

The Connecticut branches of the NAACP and the ACLU have worked together on many issues, including opposition to red light cameras and support for guidelines for the use of Tasers by police, Scot X. Esdaile, president of the NAACP of Connecticut, told the crowd. "The NAACP and the ACLU, our job is to protect people, he said. "We are the vanguard of people in the community."

Matt O'Connor, Connecticut District Political Director at SEIU Local 32BJ, spoke about immigration reform and the importance of limiting responses to detainers under the Secure Communities program. Secure Communities instructs police to notify the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of each arrest and to hold people when ICE requests it. The bill would allow police in Connecticut to honor those detainer requests only when the subject is suspected of a serious crime.

"The time is now for immigration reform. The time is now for a path to citizenship," O'Connor said. "Let's get it done this time."

Ana Maria Rivera of the Junta for Progressive Action introduced a personal story about Secure Communities, told by Jon Lugo of Unidad Latina en Accion. Lugo introduced Ahin Suarez, who was brought to the United States at the age of 15 and was turned over to ICE on a detainer request after a routine traffic stop. He now faces deportation to Mexico without his family.

Secure Communities, Lugo said, is "destroying a lot of families."

After learning about the legislation and hearing tips about how to talk to their legislators, members of the audience set out to do some lobbying at the Legislative Office Building.

"The fact that so many people, some missing a day of work, took the time to travel to the Capitol to listen to these stories and attend this training shows their passion for these issues," said Isa Mujahid, field organizer for the ACLU of Connecticut and the organizer of Lobby Day. "They are committed to working for a better society and I hope their elected officials are paying attention."

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