Connecticut to Be First State to Limit Participation in Secure Communities Program
Hartford— A unanimous vote in the State Senate today passed the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act, making Connecticut the first state in the nation to formally limit its participation in the federal Secure Communities program when it is signed by Governor Dannel Malloy. Implementation of the TRUST Act is expected to improve the relationship between Connecticut’s immigrant communities and local law enforcement by allowing state agencies and municipal governments to submit to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s request to detain an individual only if there is a serious or violent felony conviction. The bill passed the State House, also unanimously, on May 22.
Since February 2012, the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA) has advocated for a local measure to save hardworking immigrants from deportation and keep immigrant families together. Those efforts manifested as the TRUST Act, a way to repair the devastating effects of the Secure Communities program on the immigrant community in Connecticut. Its current flawed interpretation has failed to uphold the program’s true intended purpose and has reportedly made immigrants less likely to contact police officers if they have been a victim of a crime for fear they or someone they know will be asked about their immigration status. Many immigrants have also indicated that they are less likely to voluntarily offer information about crimes they know have been committed because they are afraid police officers will ask them or someone they know about their immigration status.
“The flawed Secure Communities program has resulted in the unnecessary detention and deportation of hundreds of Connecticut residents like Jose María Islas who had no criminal convictions,” said Megan Fountain of Unidad Latina en Acción, a CIRA affiliate. “It’s unanimous in Connecticut: not one more innocent person should be racially profiled and turned over to Immigration Customs Enforcement. Not one more worker should be unable to report abuse to the police.”
“Thousands of families across Connecticut will no longer need to fear exercising their civic and neighborly duties, allowing them to be more a part of the fabric of our society. It is our hope that our voices here today are echoed across the country and contribute to the end of the failed Secure Communities program and the start of commonsense immigration reform,” added Kurt Westby, vice president and Connecticut state director of 32BJ SEIU, the largest union of property service workers in the country and an affiliate of CIRA.
Ana Maria Rivera, legal and policy analyst for Junta for Progressive Action, another affiliate of CIRA, said, “This is a monumental victory for the immigrant rights movement. The fact that advocates, our Governor and the entire Connecticut legislature worked together to send the message to ICE that we will not allow our communities to be separated is historic. Let this be a message to Congress that Connecticut is leading the fight for immigration reform.”
In Connecticut, no uniform standard for participating in the Secure Communities program has been adopted. Each police department has been establishing and executing its own response to ICE detainer requests, creating mass confusion over the program and contradictory implementation across the state.
State Senator Andres Ayala (D-Bridgeport) said, “The Trust Act is about one thing: treating people like people. Connecticut has a rich immigrant history, but today far too many of our neighbors live in constant fear of deportation. This bill will allow our law enforcement officers to use their good judgment when handling sensitive immigration issues. Connecticut’s law enforcement will no longer be required to tear apart families whose only crime has been offending a broken immigration system.”
“The vast majority of our undocumented residents are hardworking and law-abiding, and should not fear that interacting with local police could lead to their deportation,” said State Senate Majority Leader Senator Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “Ours is a nation of immigrants. It always has been and will continue to be. We need rational policies that assist these residents in becoming productive members of society.”
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 advocacy for workable, fair and humane immigration policies.