New protocols went into effect January 1 that affect the way state law enforcement handles detention requests by federal immigration authorities.
Mike Lawlor, the state’s Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, said, "Governor Malloy ordered the Department of Corrections and the state police to begin following this protocol over a year and a half ago. So the way it works is, when we get a detainer request from the Feds, we will only honor it if we determine that the prisoner involved is, in fact, a dangerous or serious criminal."
Now local police stations and court houses will also have to follow state regulations.
Under a federal program called Secure Communities, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would request that state and local police share fingerprints of many individuals they picked up. But Lawlor said that led to many people being arrested for relatively minor infractions, and held for long periods of time in detention facilities, subject to deportation.
Lawlor said there were other unintended consequences. Connecticut police chiefs discovered that if people in the immigrant neighborhoods thought that cooperating with the local police meant they were actually cooperating with immigration police, "then people would stop calling the police if they’re a victim of a crime, or they’re a witness to a crime," Lawlor said. "They just won’t cooperate. And if you get to that point, then everything starts to break down."
Lawlor said he’s not surprised. He believes states are passing along fewer referrals to ICE, and the agency has become more selective about its requests. Ultimately, Lawlor said, Congress has to reform America’s federal immigration laws.