Hartford— The state legislature’s Public Safety Committee today voted 13 to 7 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.
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 an affiliate 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.”
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.
“The TRUST Act will ensure that we are not needlessly deporting people like Jose Maria Islas—good, hardworking people who could qualify for relief under comprehensive immigration reform possibly this year. The data clearly shows that public safety suffers when local police serve as an extension of immigration agents. We need the TRUST Act in order to improve public safety in the state,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield.
A new study commissioned by PolicyLink and authored by University of Illinois-Chicago’s Dr. Nik Theodore surveyed 2,004 Latinos in four U.S. counties and shows that the Secure Communities program has resulted in a growing mistrust of the police.
- 44% of respondents reported they are 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
- 45% of respondents indicated they are less likely to voluntarily offer information about crimes they know have been committed because they are afraid the police officers will ask them or someone they know about their immigration status
- 43% of respondents feel “less safe because local law enforcement is more involved in immigration enforcement”
- 38% of respondents feel afraid to leave their home because local law enforcement officials are more involved in immigration enforcement
“This new data confirms what we see every day,” said John Lugo, coordinator of Unidad Latina en Acción in New Haven and CIRA affiliate. “Last week an immigrant called me because he was beaten up in the Hill neighborhood. I had a hard time convincing him to go to the police. When he did go to the police, they treated him like a criminal instead of a victim. They asked for his car registration, even though this had nothing to do with the crime he had suffered. Now the court marshals can turn him over to ICE. We urgently need the TRUST Act. The so-called Secure Communities program has forced immigrants into the shadows. They are targeted for crimes in New Haven and they feel powerless.”
“The “Secure” Communities program has made us all less safe by violating the trust between local police and immigrant communities,” said Sarah Foreman of Immigration Rights Task Force of the Unitarian Society of New Haven, a CIRA affiliate. “It has destabilized communities and grievously hurt families through needless deportations. Connecticut needs the TRUST Act for the good of immigrants and citizens alike.”
Steve Volpini, president of United Action Connecticut, a CIRA affiliate, said, “The TRUST Act is a courageous and necessary commitment by the Connecticut Legislature to build community as our national government struggles to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The TRUST Act is a great encouragement for immigrants and their allies.”
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.
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