Hartford– Alarmed by the recent wrongful arrest of a New Haven immigrant, state officials today joined leaders of Connecticut’s immigrant community and labor movement at a courthouse rally to celebrate his release demand a more just and humane immigration policy in the state. The advocates specifically called on state agencies to follow Governor Dannel Malloy’s lead on limiting the deportation program known as Secure Communities.
New Haven resident Josemaría Islas was wrongfully arrested and jailed for five months before his release on bond today, according to his criminal defense attorneys Peter Billings and Sean Barrett. A judge had previously ordered Mr. Islas to be released last month after the prosecutor reduced the charges due to compelling evidence showing that he is innocent. But Connecticut judicial marshals held Mr. Islas on an “ICE hold request” and turned him over to immigration agents, who took him to a detention center in Massachusetts. Today, he was finally released on bond.
Advocates say Mr. Islas’ case makes clear that the federal Secure Communities program opens the way to civil rights violations despite efforts of the Malloy Administration and some local officials in Connecticut to limit its effect. 32BJ SEIU, along with a coalition of human rights and faith-based organizations, labor unions and concerned citizens, are calling on state agencies to adopt the governor’s policy statewide.
“We are thrilled the judge will let my brother post bond and finally get out of jail,” said Juana Islas of New Haven. “But the policy toward immigrants has to change so that this doesn’t happen again. This has been a five-month nightmare for our family. My brother has never been in trouble with the law. For eight years he has held a steady job and financially supported me and my children. My son looks to Josemaría like a second father. I cannot wait to tell him his uncle will be coming home.”
Mike Lawlor, Governor Malloy’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy, said that Secure Communities, created to deport dangerous criminals, is being used to detain very low-level offenders and persons not convicted of any crime, including Mr. Islas.
“When the federal government implemented Secure Communities in April, we responded by creating our own common-sense policy because ICE holds are not mandatory,” said Lawlor. “We directed the Department of Correction and the State Police not to honor detainer requests for anyone not convicted of a serious crime or who is not a threat to public safety. We are urging the Judicial Branch and local police to adopt the same policy.”
“We commend Governor Malloy for taking necessary steps in dealing with Secure Communities,” said Kurt Westby, Director of 32BJ SEIU in Connecticut, one of the largest unions representing immigrant workers in the country. “We hope that we can continue working together so that all agencies within Connecticut adopt similar policies.”
“I am resolute in my opposition to the ICE program known as Secure Communities,” said New Haven Mayor John DeStefano. “Josemaría’s case is unfortunately just one of too many where individuals with little to no criminal history are subject to deportation.””Mr. Islas is a resident of Connecticut. His family is here, his job is here, his life is here,” said Ana María Rivera, Legal and Policy Analyst for Junta for Progressive Action.”
“Mr. Islas is a resident of Connecticut. His family is here, his job is here, his life is here,” said Ana María Rivera, Legal and Policy Analyst for Junta for Progressive Action. “While we are very pleased with the judge’s decision today, the fight for justice for Josemaría is far from over. And it is still a strong example of why the Secure Communities program is bad policy and should be eliminated. Families are being separated and communities have lost trust in law enforcement. The consequences of this program are devastating for many people.”
With 125,000 members in eight states and Washington, D.C., including 4,500 in Connecticut, 32BJ SEIU is the largest union of property service workers in the country.