Bill Aims to Save Immigrant Community Relationship with Law Enforcement
Hartford— The state legislature’s Joint Committee on Judiciary yesterday voted 33 to 11 to take a step toward greater trust between Connecticut’s immigrant communities and local law enforcement, advancing the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act to set a standard implementation of the federal Secure Communities program by all state agencies.
While the bipartisan Senate group worked on their federal immigration reform bill proposed today, the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA) has been advocating for the TRUST Act as a local measure to repair the devastating effects of the Secure Communities program on the immigrant community in Connecticut because of its current flawed interpretation.
The TRUST Act would allow local governments to submit to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s request to detain an individual only if they have a serious or violent felony conviction, the law’s intended purpose, while helping restore the trust that has been lost between local law enforcement and the community.
Kurt Westby, vice president and Connecticut state director of 32BJ SEIU, the largest union of property service workers in the country and member of CIRA, said, “State and local law enforcement resources need not be misspent on federal immigration enforcement activities that target working people and undermine community relations. We are doing everything we can to pass commonsense immigration reform on the national level, but in the meantime, entire communities are suffering when immigrants are arbitrarily swept into detention and deportation proceedings. We can fix this with the TRUST Act.”
“Connecticut needs the TRUST Act because the numbers show that Secure Communities is not working. This program is supposed to be about improving public safety, but only 27% of individuals removed through S-Comm have committed serious offenses. Out of the 331 people from Connecticut deported under the program, 268 either had no convictions or were accused of a minor offense. What our communities don’t need is another reason not to trust their local police,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield.
State Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Undersecretary Mike Lawlor added, “Passage of the TRUST Act is good for Connecticut because it will create a single set of rules for responding to civil immigration detainer requests under the federal Secure Communities program. It also puts our state’s law enforcement agencies in position to mitigate the program’s detrimental effects on public safety, community policing and civil liberties.”
In Connecticut, there is no uniform standard for participating in the Secure Communities program; each police department establishes its own response to ICE detainer requests. The question of jurisdictional interpretation of the program has lacked a clear and consistent answer from ICE before Congress, the media and local officials. The confusion has resulted in a contradictory implementation, many times unjust to law-abiding immigrants.
“As the son of Chinese immigrants to this country, I know firsthand how important it is to establish safeguards against racial profiling and wrongful detention,” said State Representative William Tong. “I voted for this legislation because I believe it is critical to restore the trust that has been lost between local law enforcement and many Connecticut residents. And when we pass the TRUST Act into law, residents of our many diverse immigrant communities will know that their elected officials understand what it takes to make all our neighborhoods safer.”
State Representative Mae Flexer said, “Passing the TRUST Act is critical to protecting victims of domestic violence. Under Secure Communities, many Connecticut residents believe that local police officers are acting as federal immigration agents. As a result, some immigrants in our communities are not reporting abuse out of fear of deportation. The TRUST Act will go a long way toward removing that fear and helping these women come out of the shadows.”
The Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance is a statewide coalition of immigrant, faith, labor, youth, community, business and ally organizations founded to improve the lives of Connecticut’s diverse immigrant community. We seek to strengthen family unity through the pursuit of social justice and civil liberties. We achieve this mission through non-partisan civic engagement, public education, and advocating for workable, fair and humane immigration policies.