What it means to be a ‘sanctuary city’ in Connecticut

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Connecticut officials and protestors have come out against President Donald Trump’s executive order to pull federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities.

But what are they, and what policies do they follow that federal immigration authorities object to?

What are sanctuary cities?

The term “sanctuary city” is misleading, said Kari Hong, a Boston College law professor who specializes in immigration.

“It implies that [a state or municipality] gives amnesty to undocumented immigrants in defiance of the law, but it doesn’t do that,” she said. “It simply means they are not going to do the work of a federal officer in enforcing immigration law.”

The federal government has to enforce the laws and not local police or agencies. Federal officials are responsible for their own agents, gathering their own information, and holding suspects in their own detention facilities. Phone calls and email messages to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were not returned.

Sanctuary in Connecticut

In 2013, Connecticut passed the “Trust Act” that allows state and local law enforcement agencies to ignore a federal “detainer” for an undocumented resident who hasn’t committed a serious felony or been identified for other reasons, such as being in a database of gang members or suspected terrorists. A detainer is a request from immigration authorities to hold undocumented residents beyond their normal release date.

The federal government first began asking cities and states to work with them on deportation enforcement by running background checks on those they arrested and then detaining any undocumented suspects indefinitely until Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials (ICE) could determine whether they were deportable under President George W. Bush’s Secure Communities Program, said Hong. This eventually evolved into President Barack Obama’s Priority Enforcement Program.

Cities cooperated at first, but things changed. Federal officials told cities they would get rid of serious criminals like drug dealers, rapists, and murderers, but statistics showed that about 40 percent of those deported had no criminal record and 16 percent were deported for minor crimes, such as driving without a driver’s license, Hong said.

States and cities sometimes were stuck detaining immigrants for years as cases were backlogged in immigration courts. Many jurisdictions were not reimbursed by the federal government, costing millions. Researchers also said immigrants were less likely to contact police officers if they had been a victim of a crime if they feared they or someone they knew would be asked about their immigration status.

It’s not an issue that local agencies in Connecticut deal with often, said Monroe Police Chief John Salvatore, who is president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association.

It’s not a necessity for local police to determine whether or not someone is undocumented, he said.

“We’re just trying to build cooperation in our communities,” said Salvatore. “We don’t really want people to be fearful of us because we’re just trying to do our jobs to investigate any incidents and get cooperation from witnesses and victims. We don’t want them fearful of us.”

Hartford and New Haven, which have a large immigrant populations, are among dozens of cities in Connecticut with police departments that have established policies of not asking the immigration status of those they arrest or those who contact police.

Colleges also may decline to cooperate with federal officials who ask for lists of noncitizen students. But if federal officials obtain an arrest or search warrant, then colleges must cooperate.

Deportations from the United States

Hundreds of thousands of people are deported from the United States each year.

Detainers declined in Connecticut

Correction and law enforcement officials in Connecticut declined 48 ICE detainers between Jan. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015, according to ICE.

Total ICE detainers declined by Connecticut agencies
Between Jan. 1, 2014 – Sep. 30, 2015.
Location Declined Declined with criminal history Declined with no history
Bridgeport Sheriff’s Office 1 1 0
Bridgeport Correctional Center 8 4 4
Bridgeport Police Dept. 3 1 2
Brooklyn Correctional Center 1 0 1
Connecticut State Police 1 0 1
Corrigan Correctional Inst. 1 1 0
Danbury Fed.Corr.Inst. 5 0 5
Gates Correctional Inst. 1 1 0
Hamden Police Dept. 1 0 1
Hartford Correctional Center 4 2 2
Hartford Police Dept. 1 0 1
Hartford Superior Court 1 1 0
Manchester Police Dept. 1 0 1
Manson Youth Inst. 2 1 1
Meriden Police Departrment 1 1 0
New Britian Superior Court 1 0 1
New Have Police Dept. 1 1 0
New Haven Correctional Center 6 4 2
Osborn Correctional Inst. 1 1 0
Stamford Police Dept. 6 3 3
Stratford Police Dept. 1 1 0
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Immigrants in Connecticut

The percent of foreign-born residents in Connecticut grew from 8.5 percent in 1990 to 14 percent in 2015, according to figures from the U.S. Census. About 24 percent of the immigrants in Connecticut are undocumented, which ranks it 31st among the states in the percentage of immigrants who are undocumented, according to a study from Pew Research Center in 2014.

Crime in sanctuary cities

During his presidential campaign and since, Trump has characterized the policies followed in sanctuary policies as encouraging crime.

“I’m very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime. There’s a lot of problems,” Trump said during an interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News this week.

A recent study of 608 sanctuary counties found lower rates of crime there than in non-sanctuary counties.

Crime trends in Connecticut cities where officials have proclaimed sanctuary status show a consistent decline since the ’90s.

Though there was a slight recent uptick in rates in some cities like Hartford and Manchester, the rates are still low relative to 20 years earlier.

The legality

Can President Trump withhold federal funding from Connecticut and its cities for not cooperating with immigration enforcement?

There are Supreme Court precedents that prevent the federal government from commandeering local and state officials.

“He’s making these threats with the executive order, but the Supreme Court have already said in a general manner that this won’t be permitted,” said Hong. “So it very much appears this is an attempt to coerce or bully or shame cities.”

Two cities in Massachusetts, Lawrence and Chelsea, already have sued President Trump for his threat to cut federal funding. San Francisco filed a similar suit last week.

Enforcement of Trump’s other executive order regarding immigration, which banned travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, has been blocked by the courts so far. The Trump administration is reportedly considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court or redrafting the executive order.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, no one has been killed in the United States in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from, or whose parents emigrated from, the seven countries targeted in the executive order: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Below are statistics for persons from those countries deported, and the proportion deported for criminal activity. (Libya’s figures were not released by Homeland Security).  Overall, they are an extremely small percentage of deportations from the U.S.

What do you think?

  • I think if the states and cities refuse to help the Feds with law enforcement, the rights of the lawless apparently being more important than the safety of the lawful, the Feds should reciprocate in kind. Don’t bother sending any evidence to the FBI crime lab, don’t look for federal funding for all that SWAT and anti-terror equipment you’ve been getting, solve your own bank robberies and interstate crimes perpetrated upon your citizens, and when you DO have an unlawful resident who happens to have murdered one of your lawful citizens or habitually committed crimes against them, don’t bother to call ICE to have them deported, keep them in your own prisons… you’re on your own.

  • disgusted

    Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, no one has been killed in the United States in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from, or whose parents emigrated from, the seven countries targeted in the executive order: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
    How can anyone make the statement above ??? Let’s check the facts shall we ? These people are ‘undocumented’ so that coupled with the fact that law enforcement cannot ask a person their immigration status…..how the heck would there be any paper trail for any crimes committed by these people??? How dumb do you think we are ?
    These are known terrorists countries and they’ve been flooding in through our borders. ALL, yes ALL terrorist attacks have been done by muslims, but it’s so wrong to keep them out ? Wake up – they’re not here to assimilate ..Check out http://www.shoebat.com

    • If you were to invade my home, start raiding the refrigerator, hogging the TV and refusing to leave, would you be illegally trespassing, or merely “undocumented”? If you are caught driving without a license, are you driving illegally or are you merely “undocumented”? I’ll tell you what you are… you’re demented.

      • SophieCT

        You may not be aware of this, but you’re allowed to read the article before commenting.

        • leftyfork

          The article was nothing but a smoke screen to hide the real fact. They broke into the country.

  • ell coska

    bottom line- being here illegally is a crime.

    • SophieCT

      Nope. It’s a civil offense and is, therefore, not a crime.

      • proud American

        Not entirely accurate.

        Improper entry is indeed a crime; a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $250 fine for each entry. It is unlawful presence (here after visa expires) that is a civil violation of Federal Immigration Law. It is also punishable by deportation. Any future illegal entry punishment is ramped up for those who had violated unlawful presence laws.

        Of course, then you get into being illegally employed, obtaining fraudulent SSNs, etc.

  • Paul Chotkowski

    Just because you want to come to America does not mean that it can be so.

    As a Sovereign country, these United States have a duty to set / enforce immigration policy; including, who / how many / from where immigrants with what skills, education and capital are allowed entry / residence / citizenship. I fully understand that this concept is an anathema to Open-border Progressive Collectivist and ardent Social Justice Redistributionists.

    Aliens do not get to decide that because they want to come to America, they simply come. Travel to, stays, residence, and naturalizations are PRIVILEGES not RIGHTS [no matter what the 9th Circuit asserts]! Rights come from God [or Nature if you prefer] and privileges are granted by governments and therefore can be revoked!

    US and CT Taxpayers foot the bill for subsidize / free stuff for Illegal Aliens, “Refugees”, and “Asylum Seekers”; including direct costs for food, shelter, necessities, healthcare, education, and ongoing support as well as indirect cost for law enforcement, incarceration, and suppressed wages for low skill / low education workers who may as a result draw first time / additional charity. And as our ex-Glorious Leader liked to say, Let me be clear! Illegal Aliens and “Asylum Seekers” are a net drain on the finances of the US and CT that no amount of “inclusion”, “diversity”, and “cultural enrichment” rhetoric can change. Nor do these Illegal Aliens get to fundamentally transform the political structure of my country by attempting to turn it into another failed collectivist state nor do these “Asylum Seekers” get to fundamentally transform and Balkanized neighborhoods into a series of Sharia governed ghettos where American values and laws are replaced by teachings and requirements from the Quran and the Hadith!

    We have the ability to secure our borders and better manage our immigration systems, focus immigration on MAKERS and reduce / eliminate TAKERS to those numbers specifically authorized and affordable. Just because you are young, poor, uneducated, and live in a dysfunctional country [which you failed to fix and are running away from] does not grant you the privilege to come to America. There is a limit to CHARITY especially when we have to borrow money in order to fund it or use the State’s monopoly on coercive force to extort it from MAKERS.

  • Mary Bagnaschi

    Senator Chris Murphy’s voting record and public comments regarding Immigration is well documented and hypocritical. Here is a letter dated Feb 1, 2012 that I received from him when He was CT Congressman:
    ‘Thank You for contacting me about immigration reform. I appreciate your concerns and I hope this response if helpful.
    I have always been a consistent advocate for strong border protection measures, and that’s why I voted for and helped pass House H.R. 5875 on July 28, 2010, legislation which will provide an additional $600 million in emergency border security funds for the year. The legislation includes $176 million to hire new border patrol agents and $32 million for the deployment of new, state-of-the-art unmanned border patrol aircraft. These funds are fully paid-for, and will not add a cent to the deficit.
    I’m also a strong supporter of legislation to continue the construction of the border fence, and help repair existing fence-related communications equipment. I visited the border at El Paso, Texas in 2008, traveling with Border Patrol agents as they apprehended drug smugglers and criminals, and it’s clear our borders need more resources, technology, and manpower to ensure our laws are enforced.
    I have long said that our immigration system is broken and desperately needs fixing. Congress needs to pass strong but fair immigration reform that secures our borders, includes strong enforcement provisions, ans is realistic about the future of the millions of undocumented workers in this country. One-third of all foreign-born people living in the United States, over 12 million individuals, are here illegally. While I do not believe it is feasible or humane to find and deport or detain these millions of people, I also do not believe that we can simply grant them all citizenship. We should adopt balanced policies that offer certain foreign-born workers a limited, controlled path to legal citizenship while simultaneously protecting American jobs and national security.’
    Congress has not passed any comprehensive Immigration reform or protection from refugees coming from known ISIS/terrorist Nations. President Donald Trump’s administration must assess the level of danger from this terror threat, the Executive Order banning immigration from known terrorist Nations was in response to the incompetence and failure of our legislatures to shore up our borders and finally create a comprehensive immigration policy. Senator Chris Murphy and Senator Richard Blumenthal, along with CT Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty and all others are negligent in their duties to have advocated for Immigration reform.

  • leftyfork

    I think Andrew put an awful lot of effort into writing a lot of words and creating a lot of graphs to distract from the fact that these people broke into the country. It really is that simple.
    Of course, if someone broke into his home he would want the cops to not ignore that.

  • Don Forcash

    The writer states “40 and 16 percent of those deported committed no crime or a only a minor crime such driving without a license and not major crimes like drug dealing, rape, or murder. Therefore, sanctuary cities stopped holding them for ICE. OK that’s 44 percent that evidently did commit major crimes like drug dealing, rape, or murder – Sounds like a very good result and evidently these individuals are no longer being held for ICE. This is crazy – What am I missing?
    In a bit of a tangent, does CT know what the net cost is for the approx 100,000 illegals in CT is? (Indigent hospital care, possibly school cost, etc.) We’re up to our ears in financial challenges. Maybe there is a partial solution here that is not a tax increase nor a program that affects CT citizens.