Table of Contents

    1. Immigrants, Refugees, and Asylum Seekers

    2. Demographic Overview of the Foreign-Born Population in Hartford

    3. The City of Hartford

    4. Immigrant-Serving Organizations

Immigrants, Refugees, and Asylum Seekers 

As we conducted our research, the language we used to describe the systems, people, and processes that revolve around immigration became especially important. Terms such as immigrant, refugee, and asylum seeker have different meanings and need to be clearly defined if we want to study them. Distinguishing between these concepts is important for understanding the heterogenous experience of Hartford’s foreign-born population with transitioning to the United States, particularly in terms of their legal and social position as newcomers. 

An immigrant is defined as a person who comes from a different country (Bleakley, 2017; Painchaud, 2021). The term immigrant is broadly applied to many different situations and people. A specific classification of immigrant is a refugee. If a person who had to leave their country for factors out of their control but has not yet received refugee status in their new country, they are considered asylum seekers. The 5 Grounds for asylum that would allow for refugee status are persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or being part of a “particular social group.”

Many times, refugees receive more sympathy and more funding when entering the United States. Prompting the process to be subject to manipulation and competition, regarding what constitutes persecution and to receive funding (Rodriguez, 2019). This is especially relevant when considering the phenomenon of climate refugees. Words such as undocumented or unauthorized are frequently used to describe a type of immigrant that did not enter a country officially with full government permission (Derr, 2016). All mentioned terms used to describe immigrants have important distinctions, and even though all describe a very vulnerable population, each concept signifies different social connotations and legal implications.

Demographic Overview of the Foreign-Born Population in Hartford

Hartford has a foreign-born population of 25,938, making up 21.34% of the city’s total population. Hartford’s immigrant population is incredibly diverse, with residents of the city coming from all around the world. Of the foreign-born, 75.32% are from a country in the Americas, particularly from the Caribbean (46.4%), South America (18.87%), and Central America (10.05%). Within these regions, the most common countries of origin in Hartford were Jamaica (32.36%), Dominican Republic (8.41%), Peru (5.89%), Guyana (3.84%), Mexico (3.64%), and Colombia (3.26%), as well as many other countries.

While smaller in comparison, Hartford also has a significant foreign-born population from Europe (9.58%), Asia (9.54%), and Africa (4.93%) with significant populations from India (4.36%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2.98%), and Western Africa broadly (2.46%). A more visual representation of this data, collected from Social Explorer, can be seen on the maps and charts below.

Hartford Foreign-Born Population by Regional Origin

The following map groups Hartford’s foreign-born population based on their continent of origin, namely the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Europe. We used this map to learn where Hartford’s immigrants predominantly come from, and trace their geographical distribution within the city. Such information was useful for our research particularly for contextualizing the various needs that different demographic groups of Hartford immigrants have based on their origin and representational size.

Legend: Red represents foreign-born population from the Americas (North, South, & Central America & the Caribbean), orange represents foreign-born population from Asia, green represents foreign-born population from Africa, and blue represents foreign-born population in Europe.

Source: Social Explorer, American Community Survey (5-year), Place of Birth for the Foreign-Born Population (2021).

The following pie chart is another representation of the place of origin of Hartford’s immigrants, with the added breakdown of the Americas into three further regions: the Caribbean, South America, and Central America. The presented data drove our research findings toward the idea that a more comprehensive, city-wide form of immigrant support is needed, one that takes into account the culture, language, and size of each group represented. 

Source: Social Explorer, American Community Survey (5-year), Place of Birth for the Foreign-Born Population (2021).

Hartford Foreign-Born Population Compared to Family Income Below Poverty Level

According to CRIA’s Biannual Report 2019-2020, one of the most common concerns and causes of stress for Hartford’s immigrants are related to economics, finance, and employment. About 40% of immigrants in Hartford are unemployed, 2/3 of which are seeking work. Moreover, around 70% of immigrants households report their income to be less than $30,000, a number that is likely caused by barriers such as language, lack of legal documentation (SSN), and domestic issues.

The following map juxtaposes the percentage of the immigrant population in these neighborhoods to the percentage of families whose income is below poverty level. This map demonstrates that the two variables in question – the  economic status of Hartford families, and its immigrant population – are not in a straightforward, causal relationship to each other. Rather, this relationship is complex, heterogeneous, and requires further studying.

Legend: Lighter color represents less % of foreign-born population/less % of family income below poverty level, darker color represents more % of foreign-born population/more % of family income below poverty level.

Source: Social Explorer, American Community Survey (5-year), Total Population: Foreign Born (2021) & Families: Income Below Poverty Level (2021).

The City of Hartford

Hartford, Connecticut is a city with a strong mayor and city council system in place. The city council is Hartford’s primary legislative body, and the mayor is its chief executive. The responsibilities of the mayor include proposing a budget, signing legislation into law, appointing departmental directors, and overseeing the city’s day-to-day operations. The current mayor of Hartford is Luke Bronin, serving in that position since 2016. The Hartford Court of Common Council, commonly known as the City Council, is responsible for adopting the city budget, approving mayoral appointees, levying taxes, and making or amending city laws, policies, and ordinances. There are 9 members in the city council, each of whom represents a specific district in the city. The parties represented (and the number of their respective council members) are the following: Democratic Party (5), Working Families Party (2), Hartford Party (1), and Nonpartisan (1). (Source: BallotPedia)

Immigrant-Serving Organizations

The City of Hartford has taken several steps to support its immigrant community. In 2014, the mayor appointed The Commission on Refugee and Immigrant Affairs (CRIA) to serve as an advisory board to the Mayor and City Council on issues related to refugees and immigrants. The city has been instrumental when it comes to funding certain organizations that support immigrants, such as Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS) and Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI). As a historical gateway city, Hartford has been offering services to its newcomers through various city agents, the most notable one being the Hartford Public Library (HPL), which provides a wide array of services and resources to immigrants and refugees.

The primary role of CRIA is to provide information, referrals, and advocacy services for immigrants and refugees in the city of Hartford. They provide input and recommendations to the municipal government regarding improvements in various areas, such as access to healthcare, education, and legal services. One of their roles is to issue a report every 2 years where they outline the state of refugees and immigrants in Hartford. Their 2019-2020 Biannual Report highlights their commitment to advocating for the rights and well-being of immigrants and refugees in Hartford, as well as its efforts to collaborate with city officials and community partners to create a more welcoming environment for its new coming residents. CRIA’s work entails not only providing feedback to the city on policies and practices that need improvement, but also on educating the public about the needs and contributions of immigrants.

In 2021, CRIA passed a resolution in support of Hartford’s leaders for the immigrant community. In this resolution, CRIA recommended enhancing communication and networks of collaboration between organizations that provide services to immigrants and refugees. They also decided to designate an employee to be a liaison for organizations within the city that represent and support immigrant and refugee communities and their needs. The resolution emphasizes CRIA’s determination to work with this liaison to implement a plan regarding improving inter-agency communication. Besides CRIA, there are many organizations in Hartford that devote their mission to helping immigrant communities, some of the most notable ones being IRIS, CIRI, and HPL.

IRIS is a New Haven-based non-profit organization that provides a variety of services to immigrants, refugees, and asylees throughout Connecticut. Their office in Hartford provides assistance in areas such as resettlement, employment and legal services, education, and training.

CIRI is another non-profit organization that operates state-wide and is instrumental to providing valuable assistance to its immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. CIRI’s most notable contribution is providing newcomers with legal assistance, social services, education and job development, as well as advocacy and community organizing.

HPL plays a crucial role in supporting the Hartford immigrant community and making the city an inclusive environment for growing immigrant communities. HPL offers a wide range of services for the Hartford community, many of which are completely open and free for the city’s immigrants as well. These include English language learning, citizenship workshops, technology assistance and training, job search assistance, social service referrals, and cultural programming.

For a more detailed list of immigrant-serving organizations in Hartford, refer to the ‘Resources‘ tab of this website.

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