HARTFORD, CT — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal stood outside the Abraham Ribicoff Federal Building on Monday before heading back to Washington to tell President Donald Trump he will not be “extorted” by threats to deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants.
Trump threatened immigration raids that were set to begin this past weekend until he called them off and gave Congress two weeks to change asylum law.
“His solution is to end asylum grants in this country,” Blumenthal said. “Literally, stop offering asylum in our borders. That kind of policy is abhorrent to American values and ideals.”
Blumenthal said they are willing to come to the table to discuss comprehensive immigration reform that assures fairness, due process, “and border security.”
He said they also want a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, the children who were brought to this country by their parents at a young age.
Trump tweeted that he had “delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border.”
“If not, Deportations start!” he wrote.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had planned on targeting about 2,000 people in “family units” who had already received final orders to leave the country.
Trump followed up with a tweet this weekend saying, “I want to give the Democrats every last chance to quickly negotiate simple changes to Asylum and Loopholes. This will fix the Southern Border, together with the help that Mexico is now giving us. Probably won’t happen, but worth a try. Two weeks and big Deportation begins!”
Blumenthal said immigrant families have been fearful to go to church, school, or doctor’s offices as a result of the threats.
“President Trump is terrorizing these families,” Blumenthal said.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said Trump continues to equate undocumented immigrants with criminals when that’s the farthest thing from the truth.
“There is no way to defend the deportation of law-abiding families over those who actually pose a threat to communities around the country,” Bronin said. “This is Donald Trump trying his best to create fear in communities, to divide our country, to create a backlash and minorities across the board.”
Blumenthal said the mass raids that had been planned in at least 10 major cities would be a repeat of family separations on the border.
“The terror that he has imposed on these families targets the children,” Blumenthal added.
He was joined by advocates from across the state, including some who went further in calling on Congress to end funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Alok Bhatt from the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance said for them it’s not just distinguishing the difference between criminals and families, it’s about “abolishing ICE” and “abolishing the systemic forms of violence against immigrant communities.”
He said he wants to get ICE out of Connecticut.
Carolina Bortolleto with CT Students for a Dream said even though Trump has called off the raids this weekend, “people are still going to be deported and the human rights abuses are still going to continue.”
She said Trump is leveraging fear in immigrant communities to get more money for the “detention camps and his deportation police.”
She said Congress should reject any funding increase for immigration or border enforcement.
Blumenthal said he hopes bipartisan discussions continue, but he’s not enthusiastic about any of what he sees coming from the Judiciary Committee. He said there’s legislation that would allow immigrants to apply for asylum in their home country, but that legislation “seeks to be a non-starter.” He said the same legislation would allow children to be detained longer than 20 days and would allow them to be kept in harsh conditions.