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"Secure Communities" Program Is Not, says New Haven Mayor

December 14, 2011

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - New Haven Mayor John DeStefano is taking aim at a federal immigration enforcement program he says would disrupt families and damage efforts to promote community policing if it comes to Connecticut.

The program, Secure Communities, has removed some violent, undocumented felons from the country, although opponents say the records show that most of the people detained and deported had no criminal records or only minor violations.

This week, in the heart of the New Haven Latino community, the mayor stated his views:

"This is calling on the state to not honor requests for detainers from the federal government unless the individual's on the FBI Terrorist Watch List, or has been convicted of a violent crime."

A spokesman for Gov. Dannel Malloy said the governor also has problems with the program, and that a federal task force report has cited grave concerns with the way it is being implemented.

Mike Lawlor, Malloy's criminal justice adviser, says the fact that the feds have postponed implementation in Connecticut may mean changes are on the way.

"The governor has asked the immigration officials to reconsider what they're contemplating, and to make sure that if they issue detainers, it's only going to be for the most serious criminals."

At the mayor's news conference, New Haven Police Lt. Luis Casanova, a patrol commander, said that if local police become immigration enforcers, local residents would lose trust in the police and be less likely to report crimes.

"Our department is interested in delivering and ensuring a safe environment, not to instill fear in the members of our community."

He said it's important that victims and witnesses feel they can come forward without fear of deportation.

Alderwoman Migdalia Castro, who represents many of New Haven's Latino residents, said New Haven has made strides in becoming a welcoming city for all, and thinks the program would be a setback.

"One day that you come and pick up individuals from the neighborhood, you divide families. You break up the moving engine that is contributing to this great city, to this great state."

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT