Over 70 New Haven workers and immigrants’ rights advocates travelled to Hartford Wednesday to protest the federal deportation program that launched in Connecticut that day.
As the controversial U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement program known as Secure Communities rolled out statewide, the group delivered a letter to Gov. Dannel Malloy expressing “alarm” at the program, which will begin checking fingerprints of suspected criminals against ICE databases today in an effort to deport criminals living in the country illegally. Meanwhile, the Yale Law School’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic asked a federal district court to expedite a class action lawsuit it filed against ICE’s use of detainers on criminal suspects in the wake of Secure Communities’ implementation in the state.
“Implementing [Secure Communities] poses a real threat to every state resident, no matter the person’s citizenship or immigration status,” the letter submitted to Malloy said. “[Secure Communities] incentivizes racial profiling, undermines community policing and burdens Connecticut taxpayers.”
While members of the Yale College Democrats, MEChA -— Yale’s Chicano student organization — and Connecticut Students for a DREAM were slated to attend the rally at the state capitol building in Hartford, leaders of the student groups said none of their members were able to attend.
Still, the letter submitted to Malloy was signed by 24 organizations across the state — including the above — and spearheaded by Armando Ghinaglia ’14, policy coordinator of Connecticut Students for a DREAM. Because Secure Communities works with law enforcement officials directly under the governor’s supervision, Ghinaglia said the coalition believed going directly to Malloy with their concerns would be the most effective course of action.
The letter asks Malloy to “publicly resist the hurried implementation of a deeply flawed program” by directing state law enforcement officials not to comply with detainers issued under the program.
While the governor was not on hand at the state capitol to receive the group when it arrived shortly after 11 a.m., Mike Lawlor, the state’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, accepted the letter on Malloy’s behalf.
In a Tuesday email to the News, Lawlor said Connecticut’s Department of Correction will decide whether to honor ICE’s detainment requests on a case-by-case basis.
Malloy’s office adopted that position after New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and several city and state officials held a press conference at City Hall Monday, asking the governor to distinguish between serious and low-level offenders in handling detainment requests. Through Secure Communities, when ICE officials have reason to believe a suspect may be undocumented, they can issue a detainment request to the state, allowing the suspect to be held for up to 48 hours, during which immigration officials decide whether to initiate deportation proceedings against the suspect.
The city did not receive any word of detainment requests from ICE on Wednesday, City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said. In the past several days, the city has warned that the ICE program will harm the New Haven Police Department’s efforts to revive community policing in the city.
NHPD Chief Dean Esserman, who has shaped the department’s return to a community policing strategy since being sworn in last November, said the program threatens to erode trust between the city’s immigrant population and the police department.
Members of the Law School’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic are questioning the constitutionality of the immigration detainers used by ICE under Secure Communities.
“Detainers are the linchpin of the Secure Communities program. Without them, the program cannot function,” said Matthew Vogel LAW ’13, an intern at the clinic. “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.”
ICE also launched Secure Communities in New Jersey and Maryland on Wednesday.