CT Attorney general candidates talk immigration, civil rights at UConn

The USG External Affairs Committe holds an Attorney General Forum in the Dodd Center. In attendance was the Democratic candidate William Tong and Green Party candidate Peter Goselin moderated by Jacob Kowalski and Professor Virginia Hettinger. (Photo by Kush Kumar/The Daily Campus)

Connecticut attorney general candidates William Tong (D) and Peter Goselin (G) debated issues surrounding civil and immigrant rights at the University of Connecticut’s Dodd Center Konover Auditorium last night.

The debate was dominated by a debate over the rights of undocumented and immigrant workers. Goselin said that the Democratic Party as a whole has not “consistently and wholeheartedly” stood up for the rights of immigrants.

“(The Democratic Party) has not played an aggressive role in defending the rights of immigrants, it has not played an aggressive role in reuniting families, it has not played an aggressive role in protecting undocumented workers in the workplace,” Goselin said. “And one of the things that I believe we need to do is build a political party that is actually capable of standing up consistently and wholeheartedly for the rights of immigrant workers and the rights of all workers.”

Tong disagreed with Goselin’s claim, saying Democrats are the people fighting the hardest on behalf of immigrants.

“To say that Democrats haven’t taken the league of defending immigrants here in Connecticut is just wrong, and frankly does a disservice to all of the people who work hard day in and day out to defend the rights of immigrants like my family,” Tong said.

Tong said one of the scariest moments for him since President Donald Trump took office was when he heard that Trump had formed a task force to denaturalize immigrants who are now American citizens.

“This is not a legal issue for me, this is real life,” Tong said. “My father, at one point, was undocumented and was considered ‘illegal.’ So for a lot of us, this is a very deeply personal issue, which is why I voted to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented workers, why I voted to provide in-state tuition to undocumented students.”

When asked what their top priority would be if elected attorney general, Goselin said he would focus on police brutality in Connecticut’s urban areas.

“If you’re a person of color and you live in Bridgeport or Waterbury or Hartford, and especially if you’re a young person, you have good reason to be afraid,” Goselin said. “If you’re out on the street and you have to deal with the cops, you could end up being harassed, you could be beaten up, you could be arrested, you could be killed.” Goselin has attended memorial services for young people who have been killed by police officers “over circumstances that completely did not warrant them.”

Tong said if elected, his top priority would be to create a Connecticut civil rights division, which would be responsible for enforcing federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability, religion and natural origin.

“I’m the only candidate in this race that’s called for the creation of a civil rights division,” Tong said. “I would leverage my experience as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to go to the legislature and encourage them to pass a law that creates a civil rights division so the attorney general can step forward and file suit on behalf of the residents of this state to protect their civil rights.”

Both Goselin and Tong said they were in favor of expanding medical marijuana usage, requiring police officers to wear body cameras and implementing an “affirmative consent” law. Both said they oppose banning books from schools and libraries.

Dylan DeMoura third-semester political science and Spanish double major said he came to the debate because he thought it was important to inform himself on state politics. He has he came away from the debate liking Goselin more than Tong.

“I just felt like the way (Goselin) responded was way more authentic and genuine, whereas the Democratic candidate talked way more like a politician,” DeMoura said. “And the Green Party candidate’s positions were very progressive and more in line with my way of thinking.”


Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.