Secure Communities Program Under Fire As Conn. Prepares For Immigration Debate

by Categorized: Connecticut, Washington Date:

As President Obama pushes for comprehensive immigration reform at the national level, immigration activists in the state are fighting many aspects of current federal immigration policy.

In Connecticut, criticism of President Obama\’s Secure Communities program comes from both the top down and bottom up. The U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program, aimed at focusing deportation efforts on violent offenders who pose a high threat to public safety, establishes a partnership between ICE and state or local police. The local law enforcement agencies are charged with turning over information on people they arrest to the feds, and ICE can issue immigration detainers, requesting local law enforcement agencies to hold individuals who would otherwise be released. The program has drawn controversy because statistics suggest it more frequently targets low-level, nonviolent offenders–in this state, more people who were guilty of minor crimes punishable by less than one year were deported than those found guilty of felonies.

Officials say the program strains correctional resources and damages trust between local law enforcement and the communities they serve. Earlier this month, the DOC established a policy to release inmates held solely as ICE detainees if they do not pose a threat to public safety. Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield has proposed H.B. 5938, to \”enact a state response to Secure Communities,\” and will participate in a national telephonic briefing with similar advocates from other states Tuesday.

Meanwhile, those directly affected are fighting the program as well. Last week, community leaders and activists held a rally outside Hartford immigration court to protest the deportation of Josemaria Islas, who was acquitted in October but held on an ICE hold request rather than released. Conn. DREAMer Mariano Cardoso, who is pursuing a civil engineering degree at CCSU, attended the rally. Cardoso himself was almost deported in 2011 but granted a stay of removal, which postpones proceedings.

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