ctnewsjunkie file photo
November 2016 immigration rally in Hartford (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — The U.S. Department of Justice told Connecticut Thursday that it’s not violating federal immigration law and should be eligible for a federal law enforcement grant.

The letter says “the Department has found no evidence that the State of Connecticut is currently out of compliance with section 1373.”

Title 8, Section 1373 is the part of the U.S. Code dealing with immigration. It doesn’t require local and state law enforcement to gather information, but it prohibits local governments from preventing communication with the federal government.

Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration he signed an executive order seeking to boost enforcement of federal immigration laws.

At the time, Connecticut had been mistakenly labeled as a “sanctuary state” by the new administration. Connecticut officials argued that the Connecticut Trust Act, which dictates how it handles immigration detainers, doesn’t violate federal law and should not disqualify it from receiving a $1.7 million JAG grant.

Connecticut’s 2013 Trust Act dictates how local and state law enforcement should treat detainer request for undocumented immigrants in their custody. Connecticut has taken the position that Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests are “requests” and not warrants or orders and should only be honored if they are accompanied by a judicial warrant.

Attorney General George Jepsen informed the Justice Department in August that there’s nothing in the Connecticut Trust Act that “prohibits or in any way restricts the sending or receiving information regarding citizenship or immigration status of any individual to or from federal officers.”

Michael Lawlor, Connecticut’s Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, said the decision reinforces what the state has repeatedly said.

“Trust between state and local law enforcement agencies and immigrant communities is vital to the public safety of all residents, Connecticut’s TRUST Act has enshrined that principle into law,” Lawlor said. “Today’s announcement by the Attorney General makes it clear that local law enforcement cannot be commandeered to serve as an extension of federal immigration authorities.”

In a press release accompanying the announcement, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he commended “the State of Connecticut on their commitment to complying with Section 1373, and I urge all jurisdictions found to be out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the Trump administration’s “vendetta against so-called sanctuary cities in other parts of the country diverts resources for local law enforcement and it’s unconstitutional because it commandeers local police forces to enforce federal law.”

However, he’s pleased with the decision regarding Connecticut.

“On the merits I’m not surprised, but nothing from the Trump administration is fully predictable,” Blumenthal said. “Their respect for the law is to be commended in this instance.”

New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Cook County, Illinois “may” have policies that violate federal law and the Department of Justice is seeking more information from those jurisdictions before reaching a decision.