Category Archives: Press (Connecticut)

Immigrant’s detainment sparks outcry (Yale Daily News)

Immigrant’s detainment sparks outcry
A crowd gathered in front of City Hall on Thursday to show solidarity for immigrant rights.
By Nicole Narea, Clinton Wang
Contributing Reporter and Staff Reporter

Photo by Jacob Geiger.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Juana Islas, a New Haven resident and undocumented Mexican immigrant, broke down in tears before a crowd gathered at City Hall Thursday evening as she recounted the story of how her brother Josemaria Islas may now face deportation after having just settled felony charges.

Josemaria Islas, who is currently in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, was arrested last July by the Hamden police investigating an attempted armed robbery. Though the victim identified Islas as the perpetrator, he was not convicted of any crime due to a lack of evidence, and instead he enrolled in a state rehabilitation program allowing individuals charged with non-serious crimes to have charges waived after a period of probation. But rather than releasing Islas to move forward with rehabilitation, judicial marshals continued to detain him in voluntary compliance with an ICE hold request, which may lead to his deportation. But immigrant rights advocates are criticizing the judicial marshals’ decision to honor the hold request — authorized under the federal Secure Communities program — because Gov. Dannel Malloy had previously promised in March not to comply with hold requests for non-violent offenders.

Secure Communities, which was implemented statewide Feb. 22, allows ICE officials to check police fingerprints of criminal suspects against ICE and FBI databases in an effort to deport criminals residing in the country illegally. When ICE officials believe a suspect may be undocumented, they can issue a detainment request asking the state to hold the individual in custody pending deportation proceedings. But the program has faced heated criticism from immigrant rights groups and members of the Latino community as unnecessarily targeting non-violent criminals and undermining community policing. In an effort to curb the program’s implementation, Malloy announced in March that Connecticut would only honor detainment requests for serious offenders who meet certain objective criteria, and given that Islas has not been convicted of a crime, his detention has incited further criticism of Secure Communities.

Advocacy groups rallied to protest Islas’ detention at a press conference that drew 17 people including members of the Islas family, advocacy group Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), a City Hall representative and members of the Divinity School student organization, Seminarians for a Democratic Society. Prior to his arrest, Islas was a volunteer for ULA and an advocate for immigration rights.

ULA pressed Malloy to urge Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to dismiss Islas’ case and develop a clear policy to address Secure Communities detainment requests. ULA volunteer Megan Fountain ’07 said that Mike Lawlor, Connecticut’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, had betrayed his promise that Islas would not be transferred to ICE custody and demanded that the state “develop a much clearer position” on the enforcement of Secure Communities.

“There still is no cohesive or transparent standard of dealing with ICE hold requests,” Fountain said.

Lawlor, however, said Malloy is already a vocal critic of Secure Communities. Malloy ordered an investigation of the program in July and announced he would only honor detainment requests for serious offenders such as convicted criminals, gang members and suspected terrorists.

But Malloy’s executive policy does not apply to Islas, who was detained under a court order, Lawlor said. Though Malloy cannot overturn such a legal ruling, he has repeatedly pressured state judicial marshals not to comply with Secure Communities’ detainment requests for non-criminals, Lawlor added. Lawlor said Malloy has also urged advocacy groups to engage members of the judicial branch in a conversation about Secure Communities.

“We can’t compel the judicial branch to follow our policy,” Lawlor said. “We have encouraged advocacy groups to put pressure on the right people.”

Fountain said ULA had not reached out to judicial officials.

ULA organizer John Lugo said undocumented immigrants seek refuge in New Haven due to policies that limit questions about an individual’s immigration status during routine law enforcement interactions. City officials, including Mayor John DeStefano Jr., have denounced the Secure Communities program. Both DeStefano and Malloy said the program could breed mistrust between local immigrant communities and police. Under Secure Communities, they said, undocumented immigrants have come to view the local police as arms of federal deportation agencies and are consequently reluctant to turn to law enforcement when they are witnesses or victims of crime, fearing they will be deported.

“Secure Communities is a misguided and mishandled program that will make neither New Haven nor the State more secure,” City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said. “The program runs counterproductive to the relationships our police department has worked hard to establish with immigrant communities.”

A Yale Law School study found that nearly 70 percent of people deported from ICE hold requests in Fairfield County were not convicted criminals, violent offenders or threats to public safety or national security.

Fingerprint rule shakes Conn. city (Boston Globe)

Fingerprint rule shakes Conn. city
Immigrants in East Haven view new policy as a threat

By Maria Sacchetti
February 24, 2012

Photo by Steve Miller for The Boston Globe

EAST HAVEN, Conn. – Federal immigration officials activated the controversial crime-fighting program known as Secure Communities across Connecticut this week, stunning this city just weeks after the FBI arrested four police officers on charges of harassing immigrants and Latinos.

Marcia Chacón, owner of My Country Store, lost business as immigrants fearful of police stayed away. She said police were “supposed to protect us, but’’ instead, “They kept us in terror.’’

The launch marked the second New England state to fully deploy the program since it started in 2008 and signaled to the remaining states, including Massachusetts, that the federal government is plowing ahead with the initiative in spite of resistance. The program automatically checks the fingerprints of everyone arrested by state and local police against immigration databases to ensure that they are in the country legally.

Like Governor Deval Patrick, Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut last year sought to delay Secure Communities on concerns that the program – designed primarily to catch and deport criminals – is also deporting high numbers of immigrants who have not been convicted of any crime.

Federal officials activated the program with little public notice, illustrating how quickly the landscape can change.

Few communities were more caught off guard than East Haven, a working city of 29,000 on the Quinnipiac River in southern Connecticut. In December, the Justice Department accused East Haven police of engaging in systemic harassment of Latinos and immigrants. After the four officers were arrested last month, the police chief resigned and the mayor outraged residents by saying he might have “tacos’’ to reach out to the community.

Jorge Zuñiga, a 36-year old construction worker from Ecuador, said the new program would immediately raise fears of retaliation.

“It’s not fair,’’ said Zuñiga. “What are the people going to think? They’re going to think that they wanted to do this to us.’’

Secure Communities, which allows immigration officials to automatically check the fingerprints that police routinely send to the FBI for criminal checks, is in 45 states nationwide, including Rhode Island.

In Massachusetts, only Boston participates in the program after helping to pilot it in 2006, but officials at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement – known as ICE – say the program will be nationwide by the end of 2013. The program also went statewide in Maryland and New Jersey this week.

Federal officials say the goal is to find and deport serious criminals and flagrant violators of federal immigration law, such as those who return to the country after being deported. ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein said the vast majority of the 169,329 immigrants deported since 2008 fell into those categories.

“Secure Communities has demonstrated its effectiveness in transforming immigration enforcement to a focus on criminal offenders,’’ he said in a statement.

But in Boston and elsewhere, critics say Secure Communities is ensnaring immigrants stopped for minor traffic violations and never convicted of any crime.

Federal statistics as of Jan. 31 show that only half of the 446 immigrants arrested by Boston police and deported since 2008 had been convicted of a crime, a figure much lower than the national average of about 74 percent.

Advocates for immigrants also highlight another concern, that the program makes domestic violence victims and others afraid to report crime for fear of being deported.

“We are worried,’’ said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “I’m most worried that the program has flaws and that the flaws are not being addressed.’’

In East Haven, residents from the deputy police chief to Latino store owners were caught off guard by the launch of Secure Communities. Immigrants who had been painting homemade signs in the back of Los Amigos Grocery for a demonstration tomorrow rushed to Hartford to urge the governor to halt the program.

“It’s not within our power to stop it,’’ said Mike Lawlor, Malloy’s top criminal justice adviser. Lawlor said Connecticut will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to detain an immigrant at ICE’s request.

Others praised the program this week for rooting out dangerous criminals – including more than 45,000 serious offenders such as rapists and murderers – and finding people who do not have legal authorization to live in the United States.

“It’s nothing to do with discrimination,’’ said Lou Ferraro, 62, in front of a local coffee shop on Main Street. “You should do it anyway.’’

Along a weathered stretch of Main Street this week, immigrants and shop owners said they were skeptical. For years, they said, police stationed cruisers outside their businesses, driving away customers. According to a federal indictment of four police officers last month, some officers beat Latinos or falsely arrested them, and harassed customers and store owners alike. The four officers have pleaded not guilty.

The 50-member police force has only one Spanish-speaking officer, though the Latino community has risen from 4 percent to 10 percent since 2000. About 9 percent of the residents are immigrants.

Marcia Chacón, an owner of My Country Store and an immigrant from Ecuador, said her family came to East Haven for the affordable homes and the small-town feel. But as immigrants fled, her business struggled. She lost two rental properties to foreclosures.

“The police are supposed to protect us, but it wasn’t that way. They kept us in terror,’’ she said.

Herman Zuñiga, a community leader and a carpenter who had been an elementary school teacher in his native Ecuador, said immigrants have helped revitalize this fading city.

“We are taxpayers either way,’’ said Zuñiga, who has one child in college and another on the way. “We purchase car insurance. We buy groceries. Don’t forget that.’’

Deputy Police Chief John Mannion said the department is taking a “very hard look at ourselves’’ and working to improve relations with the community. Asked about racial profiling, Mannion said, “That’s not going to happen.’’

“This is just a computer system that makes it easier for ICE,’’ he said.

For illegal immigrants such as Carlos, a 32-year-old construction worker from Ecuador who declined to give his last name, the new system raises the likelihood that a police stop could lead to his deportation.

“What can I do?’’ Carlos said with a shrug as he walked to his girlfriend’s car, got behind the wheel, and drove away.

YLS takes on Secure Communities (Yale Law School News)

YLS takes on Secure Communities
By James Lu

Staff Reporter

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Yale Law School’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic is challenging the legality of a federal deportation program launched in Connecticut Wednesday.

The WIRAC filed a class action lawsuit in a U.S. district court Feb. 13 questioning the constitutionality of the immigration detainers used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the program, known as Secure Communities, and asked Wednesday that the suit be expedited in the wake of its implementation. The lawsuit argues that confinement based solely on an ICE detainer notice violates the Fourth, 10th and 14th amendments of the Constitution.

“Detainers are the linchpin of the Secure Communities program. Without them, the program cannot function,” Matthew Vogel LAW ’13, an intern at the WIRAC, said in a Wednesday press release. “But confinement pursuant to these ICE notices is unconstitutional and unauthorized by Congress. The Department of Correction cannot hold people without lawful authority to do so.”

Local police departments routinely run suspects’ fingerprints through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database for the purpose of criminal background checks. Under Secure Communities, those fingerprints are also checked against an ICE database in an effort to deport criminals living in the country illegally.

If ICE has reason to believe a suspect is an illegal immigrant, the agency can issue a detainment request to the state’s Department of Correction to hold the suspect for up to 48 hours while immigration officials arrive to determine whether to initiate deportation proceedings.

But immigration detainers are not warrants — they are neither based on evidence nor issued after a constitutionally required probable cause hearing, the WIRAC argues.

“[An immigration detainer] is merely an administrative notice requesting that the local agency continue to detain an individual, even after that person would otherwise be released from state custody, until ICE comes to take custody,” the WIRAC’s press release said. “An immigration detainer carries no legal authority to order such continued detention, nor does it authorize continued detention.”

Bill Hing, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, said the main debate that will play out in the courts is whether the way Secure Communities operates is interpreted to be coercing local and state officials to act or spend money against their will.

The central question, Hing said, is whether Secure Communities violates the 10th Amendment, which forbids the federal government from making local officials do work that is not their responsibility. This constitutional question, he added, is likely to take more than a year to be resolved by courts, a view echoed by five other law professors interviewed Thursday.

While Travis Silva LAW ’13, an intern at the WIRAC, said that the clinic does not does not comment to the News “as a policy,” he told the New Haven Register that the clinic wants the court to expedite the suit because they fear an increase in unlawful detentions with Secure Communities’ implementation on Wednesday. The motion asks the district court to order the Department of Correction to respond to the lawsuit “within days.”

Meanwhile, Mike Lawlor, the state’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, said Connecticut’s Department of Correction will decide whether to honor ICE’s detainment requests on a case-by-case basis.

“We don’t understand why the governor would detain people in jails pursuant to this program when he is not obligated to do so by law,” said law professor Michael Wishnie ’83 LAW ’93, who directs the WIRAC, at a Monday press conference at City Hall with Mayor John DeStefano and other city and state officials.

Wishnie said participation in Secure Communities is entirely within Governor Dannel Malloy’s discretion, as most criminal suspects are held in state facilities that report to the governor.

City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said Thursday afternoon the city has not received word of any detainment requests from ICE since Secure Communities was implemented Wednesday.

City must make sure new program does not erode trust in authorities (Op Ed / New Times CT)

City must make sure new program does not erode trust in authorities
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Department of Homeland Security’s new Secure Communities initiative might be seen as an added layer of protection between the American people and those who would harm them.

Many in Danbury, however, likely view the program with some anxiety.

We share their concern.

Secure Communities threatens to wipe out any goodwill re-established between city police and the immigrant community since that relationship was shaken in 2009, when Danbury entered into a partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

To gain the trust of the people, the Danbury Police Department, ICE and now the Federal Bureau of Investigation should establish meaningful lines of public communication. That means regular — perhaps monthly — reports on the activities of both the ICE and Secure Communities programs, as well as responses to Danbury residents’ concerns about immigration law enforcement.

Mayor Mark Boughton and the City Council should be responsible for insisting on such openness.

Under Secure Communities, which was ongoing for two years in Fairfield County as a pilot program before being officially implemented this week, the FBI automatically shares local arrest information with ICE.

The federal government says the program is not intended to round up and deport all illegal immigrants — only those whose serious criminal activities endanger the general population.

But will that line be drawn? Who will police the police, the FBI and ICE to ensure that their authority in Danbury is not abused?

For many immigrants, taking the government at its word isn’t easy. And the FBI and ICE are not known for their transparency.

Indeed, we have witnessed ICE’s unwillingness to share, in any but general terms, information about its Danbury activities.

The Danbury Police Department, with two of its detectives deputized by ICE, defers to federal authorities on such matters. ICE, in turn, routinely refuses to release names of those arrested and other relevant details.

All of this should raise eyebrows, no matter the terms of one’s residency in the city.

There are times, perhaps, when some secrecy is needed in police matters — but that requirement should not extend to the establishment of secret police.

Resolution Opposes Fed Anti-Immigrant Effort (New Haven)

Resolution Opposes Fed Anti-Immigrant Effort
by Thomas MacMillan | Dec 6, 2011 8:35 am

It’s called “Secure Communities.” But Alderwoman Migdalia Castro said the immigration-enforcement program results only in scared communities.

Fair Haven’s Alderwoman Castro is the lead name on a resolution submitted to the Board of Aldermen Monday night that would call on Gov. Dannel Malloy to refuse to comply with Secure Communities.

That’s a federal initiative that requires local law enforcement officials to share fingerprint information on arrestees with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), in an effort to enforce immigration violations.

The program has already seen significant pushback from state and municipal governments nationwide. See Mary O’Leary’s Register article here.

The matter is now headed to committee, where it will be subject to public hearing.

“It’s about doing what’s right, what’s fair,” said Castro Monday night. The program “opens the door to profiling” she said. “We don’t want to go backwards.”

Secure Communities is a waste of time and resources and serves only to scare people, she said.

“Even the Department of Homeland Security has problems with the way some people have implemented it,” said Hill Alderman Jorge Perez, whose name is also on the submission.

The official submission to the board states that under Secure Communities implementation in Fairfield County, the majority of people deported had either no criminal record or only minor offenses.

The submission also notes that the program runs counter to the New Haven general order preventing police from asking people about their immigration status.

“We’re not interested in the police department becoming immigration enforcers,” Perez said.