State officials have urged immigrant families to make plans for their children, in case parents are deported. Connecticut may be home to as many as 22,000 U.S. citizen children, whose parents are undocumented.
The state has put together a packet called a Family Preparedness Plan that includes a form for parents to designate a standby guardian for their children, in case they are deported. It also urges families to complete a child care plan and get passports for their children.
"It's important to have those conversations with your children as well so that they are prepared in the event, in the really horrible event, that they come home from school one day, and you’re not there," said Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families Joette Katz.
Her department has estimated the cost to care for even 10 percent of these U.S. citizen children -- if they’re left without family -- could be as much as $60 million.
"You can imagine how frightening it is for me to think about this prospect, personally and professionally," she said. Currently, DCF cares for about 4,200 children.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said he believes stepped up immigration enforcement in cities like his makes communities less safe.
"Communities in which people live in fear and are driven into the shadows and are afraid to set foot in their libraries, or their public schools, or their police departments are not safe and strong communities," he said.
"I wish we could tell all of the children growing up in the state that they don’t have to worry about their parents being taken away – we can't," he went on. "What we can do is give their families the tools to prepare for that situation."
Commissioner Doris Schriro of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection said immigrants should be aware that even if they are undocumented, they still have rights.
"If ICE knocks at your door, you do not have to open the door without a warrant that is signed by a judge," she advised. "If you're not sure about that, you can ask the ICE agent to slide that warrant under the door so that you can examine it."
She warned that immigrants should not expect to have Miranda rights, or the right to free legal representation in deportation cases, because they take place under civil law. The Family Preparedness Plan also contains a summary of individual rights, and tips for hiring an attorney.
Governor Dannel Malloy said he's not concerned that Connecticut's proactive approach to protect undocumented immigrants will put it at odds with the federal government.
"There is no law that allows the federal government to tell local officials how they have to handle immigration. It does not exist," he said. "These folks in Washington are making things up as they go along, and they need to be called on it."
The plan is available online in Spanish and English, and will be distributed though libraries and municipal offices.