Connecticut Immigration Attorney James A. Welcome explains ICE's Secure Communities deportation program and the Connecticut TRUST Act
Recently, the Connecticut legislature unanimously passed the TRUST act, which Governor Malloy is expected to sign into law, limiting the state’s participation in the Secure Communities program. Secure Communities is a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation program. The program was created by ICE administratively, not congressionally, making it unclear whether or not it is a mandatory federal policy or a voluntary, nationwide program. While some state and local jurisdictions have attempted to withdraw from the program, Connecticut will become the first state to pass a law to limit its participation in the program.
Under the Secure Communities program, local police send the fingerprints of anyone who is brought into a jail to ICE to check for unlawful presence or if the person is subject to removal due to a criminal conviction. ICE uses the information sent by the police to determine whether or not the person is subject to deportation. If person is deemed removable, ICE issues a “detainer” and the person is detained by the local police for an extra 48 hours to be interviewed by ICE officials.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to expand program nationwide during the year 2013. According to the ICE website, more than 166,000 immigrants were deported through Secure Communities from the beginning of the program in 2008 through August 31, 2012.
Secure Communities has been criticized for causing immigrants to distrust local police because under the policy, legal immigrants can be subject to removal for certain crimes and illegal immigrants can be removed even if they have not committed any crimes. When police are seen as an extension of ICE, many immigrants who are witnesses or victims of crimes are too afraid of being deported to report the crime to the police.
The Connecticut TRUST Act states that local police can only detain a person if the person was convicted of a serious crime, is on a terrorist watch list, is in a violent gang, or already has an outstanding deportation order. If signed into law, this will help protect immigrants who have not committed any crimes from deportation.
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