Starting on Monday, the Connecticut Correction Department will no longer honor detainer requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless it’s accompanied by a signed judicial warrant or the inmate has been convicted of a violent felony.
In a Nov. 17 letter, Correction Department Commissioner Scott Semple told Thomas Winkowski, acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, it will not longer enforce ICE detainer requests for “administrative warrants solely on the basis of (a) a final order of deportation or removal, unless accompanied by a judicial warrant, or (b) past criminal conviction, unless the conviction is for a violent felony.”
Immigration rights advocates will celebrate the decision 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16 outside the federal courthouse in Hartford.
Earlier this year, members of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance lobbied Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office to fix what they felt was a loophole in the Trust Act passed by the legislature in 2013.
The Trust Act prohibited law enforcement officers and the Correction Department from honoring certain immigration detainers under certain circumstances. However, the law did not apply to every situation. Law enforcement was allowed to hold undocumented immigrants on ICE detainers if they are convicted felons, have previous deportation orders, or are on a terrorist watch list.
Two of the three scenarios will still apply and the order issued by the Corrections Department only applies to the Corrections Department and not local police departments or the judicial branch.
Alok Bhatt, a legislative analyst for the Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission and a member of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, described the DOC directive as a victory.
“Prior removal doesn’t mean you’re a threat to public safety,” Bhatt said. “It just means that you … were in this country undocumented before and you were removed.”
Bhatt and other immigration rights advocates will also be celebrating a decision by the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama’s administration announced on Nov. 21 that DHS will end the federal Secure Communities program, due to the fact that federal courts and more than 200 governors, state legislatures, city councils and county sheriffs have refused to submit to ICE detainer requests.
“The overarching goal of Secure Communities remains in my view a valid and important law enforcement objective, but a fresh start and a new program are necessary,” Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson wrote in this memo.
While that’s also being touted as a victory immigration rights advocates are worried about a new program called “Priority Enforcement Program.”
Advocates fear the program will be used to fill deportation quotas and guarantee that 34,000 prison beds are filled with immigrant men, women and children every night.
“Nothing in this memorandum shall prevent ICE from seeking the transfer of an alien from a state or local law enforcement agency when ICE has otherwise determined that the alien is a priority under the November 20, 2014 Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants Memorandum and the state or locality agrees to cooperate with such transfer,” Johnson wrote in his memo.
Connecticut advocates said they will continue to make sure the state create a bright line between local agencies and new federal efforts to fulfill deportation quotas.