Thread: Has ICE chilled in Danbury?
Users Browsing this Thread
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)
- 06-05-2012, 12:21 PM #1
Has ICE chilled in Danbury?
Has ICE chilled in Danbury?
Published 01:00 a.m., Tuesday, June 5, 2012
DANBURY -- It's been just over 100 days since U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement rolled out the controversial Secure Communities program in Connecticut, sparking concern from immigration activists and civil libertarians, and backlash from some state political leaders, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
But in Danbury, the program, billed by ICE as targeting for deportation serious criminal offenders who are in the country illegally, has been operating virtually under the radar for almost two years, overshadowed by the far more contentious 287(g) partnership between the police department and the immigration service that took effect in September 2009.
"I didn't sense any burning passion like there was with 287(g)," Danbury Police Chief Alan Baker said of his meeting with local immigrant groups in March, shortly after the statewide implementation of Secure Communities was announced. "Most of the inquiries I got were from the media."
Beginning on June 29, 2010, ICE activated Secure Communities across Fairfield County after the county police chiefs association agreed to participate in the program, which was first implemented in several other states in late 2008. It has now been deployed in 48 states, according to ICE officials.
Under Secure Communities, ICE is granted access to the database of fingerprints that the FBI routinely receives of anyone arrested for a crime by state or local police departments across the country.
If the prints match those of a non-U.S. citizen, ICE is automatically notified and can issue a detainer, requesting the person be held for 48 hours until the agency evaluates the person's immigration status and criminal history.
"We usually get a response back from ICE within a few minutes," Baker said.
"It's an automated system, not like the old days when you'd send in fingerprints, get them back eight weeks later and find out then that someone wasn't who they claimed to be."
Since the program's inception through March 31, Secure Communities has resulted in the removal of more than 135,000 convicted criminal aliens nationally, including more than 49,000 convicted of major offenses such as murder, rape and the sexual abuse of children, ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein said.
Of that number, 217 removals occurred in Fairfield County, according to ICE officials. Of that number, 33 fell into the Level 1 category, meaning they had been convicted of serious crimes or offenses involving "threats to national security," while 31 had convictions for other felonies (Level 2) and 68 had been charged with misdemeanors and lesser crimes (Level 3).
The remainder were classified as fugitives, people who had re-entered the county illegally after being previously deported or individuals who had overstayed their visas.
Baker could not say how many of those cases originated in Danbury. Because of the department's antiquated computer system, Baker said, Danbury police do not keep statistics on immigration detainers.
Immigrant groups in Danbury have remained relatively low-key about Secure Communities.
Luis Bautista, president of the Ecuadorean Civic Center, said he hasn't heard any complaints about local police going out of their way to arrest Hispanic motorists to get their fingerprints into the system, an issue that's been raised in other areas where Secure Communities operates.
"I haven't heard any stories like that," Bautista said. "The cops are not 100 percent nice guys, but I do believe they are doing their jobs."
But the program has drawn fire, statewide and nationally, from immigrant groups, activists and civil libertarians. Several communities in states where the program has been activated have tried unsuccessfully to withdraw from it.
Last year, a task force created at the request of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recommended numerous changes after finding that Secure Communities all too often resulted in the removal of "minor offenders or people who had never been convicted of a crime."
Several members of the task force subsequently resigned after the recommendations were ignored, said Sandra Staub, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Connecticut.
"We do not think Secure Communities is consistent with making us safer, and it violates civil liberties," Staub said. "What it does is increase the dragnet."
In Connecticut, Malloy has directed the state Department of Correction and State Police to ignore detainer requests unless the individuals fall into one of several tightly defined categories, according to Michael Lawlor, the under secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning in the state's Office of Policy and Management.
"There is concern that some people who are not serious offenders are being held," Lawlor said.
The two state agencies, however, will honor requests for convicted felons, gang leaders and individuals on the terrorist watch list, he said.
The governor's directive isn't binding on local police departments, Lawlor said.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said that while he doesn't believe many of the fears voiced by opponents have arisen in Danbury, he understands why people are concerned.
At the same time, Boughton said, he favors the 287(g) program over Secure Communities when it comes to targeting dangerous individuals for removal.
With 287(g), Danbury officers assigned to work with ICE receive specialized training, and are able to use their discretion in determining whether a person who is in the country illegally should be taken into custody.
"Secure Communities is more of a one-size-fits-all approach," Boughton said.
Ironically, the 287(g) program, which generated a huge outcry from local immigrant groups when it was adopted in Danbury, is on ICE's chopping block when it expires in October because of its cost, Baker said.
In the nearly three years 287(g) has been in effect, it has resulted in the arrests of about 20 illegal immigrants each year who were considered dangerous felons, the chief said.
"We're certainly interested in continuing it," Baker said. "It's a better program (than Secure Communities)."
Read more: Has ICE chilled in Danbury? - NewsTimesNO AMNESTY
DON'T REWARD THE CRIMINAL ACTIONS OF MILLIONS OF ILLEGAL ALIENS
BY GIVING THEM CITIZENSHIP