Karen Lin

Patricia Clark, a city official who oversees marriages, has been put on leave for reporting non-citizen marriages to federal immigration authorities. 

Between August 23 and Nov. 20, Clark, the Registrar of Vital Statistics, a division of the Health Department that oversees birth, marriage and death records, reported 73 out of 215 marriage licenses issued to non-citizens as “suspicious” to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency that includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  

During a Thursday afternoon press conference at City Hall, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said Clark’s actions might have violated a 2020 city order. Clark was put on paid leave on Dec. 1, and Elicker said that an independent consulting agency is conducting an ongoing third-party investigation into her actions. Clark’s action could put at least 73 individuals at risk of ICE enforcement, Elicker said. 

“For four years that I had been there, I have countless times underscored … regardless of your immigration status, or documentation status or any other characteristics, you are welcome here in City Hall,” Elicker said. “It’s unfortunate that many couples who are celebrating one of the happiest days of their life will have potentially that day clouded by these actions.”

According to Elicker, Clark received an email from the Connecticut State Department of Public Health in February, guiding her to report any marriages involving non-citizens if she was suspicious of the motives behind the marriage. But the mayor said this could violate an Executive Order to Affirm New Haven a Welcoming City he issued in 2020, which forbids city employees from disclosing confidential information pertaining to immigration status. 

Clark’s supervisor became aware of her marriage reporting on Nov. 21, according to Elicker. He stressed that the actual number of marriages Clark had reported since February could be higher than 73. 

“My greatest privilege is to work with the over 1,400 dedicated city employees who represent our city and work tirelessly to support everyone who [calls the city their home],” Elicker said at the beginning of the press conference, announcing the city’s investigation into Clark. “We are committed to the highest degree of accountability and transparency, which is why we want … to inform residents about [the incident].”

In a phone interview, Clark told the New Haven Independent she does not dispute the claims, and she also does not confirm that the claims are all accurate. According to the New Haven Independent, Clark declined to say why she was flagging marriages as “suspicious.” 

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Clark told the New Haven Independent. She said she learned details about the investigation from the media, as she received no details from the city administration about why she was put on leave. 

The News could not reach Clark for comment on Thursday. 

​“As a longtime New Haven resident, I will ensure that we will continue to foster a welcoming city model,” New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond said at the press conference. 

Elicker said that the city will notify affected residents early next week. He added that he is unsure what steps federal agencies will take with the information they received from Clark. 

Under U.S. federal law, marriage fraud can be punished with a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The office of Vital Statistics is located on the first floor of City Hall.

Yurii Stasiuk is a Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered City Hall as a beat reporter. Originally from Kalush, Ukraine, he is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College majoring in History and Political Science.