The federal government, particularly the immigration policies of Donald Trump, is pushing one way. Connecticut state government is pushing back. Early Wednesday morning the State Senate by a 20-15 vote–along party lines with the exception of Democrat Joan Hartley who voted with all 14 Republicans–approved a bill further restricting how police and court personnel can work with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants.
The bill awaits a vote from the State House.
From State Senator Dennis Bradley:
State Senator Dennis Bradley (D-Bridgeport) applauded the state Senate’s advancement of legislation that will strengthen the Connecticut Trust Act. It passed the State Senate by a 20-15 vote early Wednesday morning. Sen. Bradley said this legislation provides necessary protections for immigrants in Connecticut.
“Passing this legislation ensures that we uphold the very best of what it means to be American,” said Sen. Bradley. “We believe as a nation that individuals’ rights and freedoms are what make our nation the very best. Innocent people should not fear the government. As the Trump Administration continues to fail on immigration and demonize the innocent, this legislation will protect innocent immigrants from having to live in fear over deportation in our state.”
Senate Bill 992, “An Act Concerning the Trust Act,” would prohibit Connecticut law enforcement officers from detaining an individual based on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers. Additionally, it would clarify that judicial marshals and other law enforcement officials may honor civil immigration detainers only when accompanied by a judicial warrant.
In 2013, the General Assembly passed “Trust Act” legislation that attempted to define the rules for law enforcement officials dealing with undocumented immigrants. In response to instances where law enforcement responded to civil immigration detainers by holding individuals for indefinite lengths of time, the Act limited when local law enforcement may detain individuals, and it prohibited holding a person on behalf of federal immigration authorities for more than 48 hours.
In December 2014, the Department of Corrections (DOC) established a new policy that further limited enforcement of civil immigration detainers. An individual with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer could be held “only if” the individual had (1) a prior violent felony conviction; (2) a match in the terrorist screening database; or (3) “a final Order of Deportation or Removal issued by the United States which is accompanied by a Judicial Warrant.”
A March 2019 report from the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance highlights that Connecticut Judicial Marshals have been enforcing civil immigration detainers issued by ICE, despite not being required by federal law to do so. This has raised legal concerns and may be in possible violation of the 2013 Connecticut Trust Act. The report found that 78% of judicial marshals detain individuals in situations that would not be grounds for detention under DOC policy. Two categories in particular are responsible for this: (1) a final order of deportation or removal; and (2) unacceptable risk to public safety. These categories are broad and unreliable and not enforced by DOC.