Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Alok Bhatt of the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — The Connecticut Trust Act, which prohibits law enforcement from honoring certain immigration detainers was approved in 2014, but it needs to be expanded, a group of immigrant right organizations said Monday.

Under the current act, law enforcement and the Department of Correction should not be honoring requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain someone. However, there are loopholes and ways the state has been sharing information that makes the detection of these individuals by the federal agents easy.

Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said there are federalism concerns around federal immigration officials directing the activities of state and local law enforcement.

The new proposal is for Connecticut to ignore any civil immigration detainer unless it’s accompanied by a judicial warrant. The Judiciary Committee heard testimony Monday.

“If we have a reason to hold somebody because they commited a crime we can hold them under state law. But if there’s a reason for someone to be held under federal immigration law then there should be a warrant,” Tong said.

He said it’s a clarification of what everyone’s responsibilities are under the Trust Act.

The Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance used a graphic to show that in 2017 there were 321 ICE detainer requests issued in Connecticut. Of those, 130 were sent to Connecticut courthouses. At least 52 of those detainers were served and resulted in a person being held. An estimated 40 of those 52 individuals were improperly detained.

The courthouses with the highest ICE arrest rates are Waterbury, Hartford, and Danbury, according to CIRA.

Tong said Connecticut has enough problems and shouldn’t be expending money to do a federal agency’s job for them.

Alok Bhatt, who is with CIRA, said the Department of Correction does regularly communicate with ICE regrading the release status of anyone of interest to ICE. So even if they don’t hold them, they do tell ICE as soon as the person sets foot outside of a state-level facility.

“The point is not to let bad people to go free,” Tong said. “We’re talking about people who may need the services of a police department or a hospital or need to go into a public building and they should not be chilled and deterred from doing so. “

But that’s what’s happening.

There’s a fear among the more than 108,000 immigrants in Connecticut that they will be deported, even if they are holding a green card and on the pathway to citizenship.

“People are afraid to take action to protection themselves and make use of public services,” Tong said.

David McGuire, executive director of the Connecticut American Civil Liberties Union, said they are seeing local police getting deputized by ICE and they’re doing ICE’s business.

“Sometimes in ways that are unconstitutional and definitely in ways that are undermining the public’s trust in police,” McGuire added.

He said the expanded legislation would make it clear that Connecticut law enforcement can only honor a detention request when it’s accompanied by a valid judicial warrant.

“That’s not asking too much,” McGuire said. “It should be the practice right now.”

No one submitted testimony against the legislation.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Justice doesn’t believe Connecticut’s Trust Act runs contrary to federal immigration law. It’s unclear whether this proposal might put Connecticut in jeopardy of losing law enforcement funding.