A bill that would prohibit, under some circumstances, any law enforcement officer in the state from telling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that they detained an undocumented immigrant cleared another legislative hurdle Tuesday when it passed the Public Safety Committee 13 to 7.
Supporters of the measure standing outside the House chamber Tuesday cheered the news.
Ana Maria Rivera, a legal and policy analyst with Junta for Progressive Action, said it’s nicknamed the “Trust Act” because it will restore the trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community.
“Seventy percent of those deported in Connecticut have committed non-violent offenses,” Rivera said.
Last year, out of the 402 people from Connecticut who were deported, 317 either had no convictions or were accused of only a minor offense. The bill would not apply to violent felony offenders.
She said it’s great that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration told the Department of Correction and state police not to honor the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency’s Secure Communities “detainer” requests, but it doesn’t currently apply to municipal police or judicial marshals.
It was judicial marshals who turned over Mexican immigrant Josemaria Islas to federal immigration authorities.
Islas, 35, is originally from Puebla, Mexico. He said he’s been in the United States since 2005. On July 2, 2012, he was arrested for an alleged robbery in Hamden. He was held in jail for nearly four months before he was granted “accelerated rehabilitation” — a kind of conditional dismissal of his case — in November 2012.
Just as he was to be released, judicial marshals handed Islas over to ICE, which had issued a request to detain him. ICE alleges that Islas is a serial violator of immigration laws who has repeatedly entered the country illegally.
ICE issued the detainer request under its Secure Communities program, which ICE argues is a way to target dangerous undocumented immigrants.
But critics in Connecticut believe it breaks up families and undermines the trust between police and immigrant communities.
Juan Hernandez, a district leader for 32BJ, said the bill is important to give the immigrant community some peace of mind that it won’t be deported if it reports a crime to the police.
“It would be a safety net that we don’t have at the moment,” Hernandez said.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, who posed for a picture with supporters Tuesday outside the House chamber.
“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,” Holder-Winfield said. “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.”