Immigration reform advocates are praising a decision by Governor Dannel Malloy to improve Connecticut's TRUST Act. A change to Department of Correction policy will narrow the times the state will agree to hold an inmate for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
The story of a 21-year old Norwalk man, Esvin Lima, led Unidad Latina en Accion and other immigrant advocates to request a change to how the state Department of Correction was intrepreting the TRUST Act. The act is a state law passed in 2013 that detailed circumstances when the state would cooperate with immigration authorities.
Advocates have been meeting with the governor and his staff since August, urging the Department of Correction to revise its policy.
In a statement on Wednesday, Unidad Latina en Accion said the DOC issued a new memorandum that advances the TRUST Act "by narrowing the scope of submission to federal immigration detainers."
Before the announcement, the DOC would honor an ICE detainer on an inmate if the person had a prior deportation order. This was the case for Lima, who was arrested on a misdemeanor charge last spring. His attorneys said he would not post his low bond, because previous DOC policy would have instructed the state to notify ICE once Lima was set to be released, and hold him for a short period.
In a letter to ICE dated November 17, interim DOC commissioner Scott Semple informed the federal agency that the DOC's directive on the Immigration Detainer is amended.
"Under the revised policy," Semple wrote,"the Connecticut Department of Correction will no longer enforce ICE detainer requests and Administrative warrants solely on the basis of a final order of deportation or removal, unless accompanied by a judicial warrant, or past criminal conviction unless its for a violent felony."
In a statement, ICE spokesman Daniel Modricker reiterated when the federal agency requests detainers on individuals arrested on criminal charges. He said it's to ensure that dangerous criminals are not released from prisons or jails and into our communities. "ICE will continue to work cooperatively with law enforcement partners throughout Connecticut," he said, "as the agency seeks to enforce its priorities through the identification and removal of convicted criminals and other public safety threats."
Lima's attorney, Danielle Robinson Briand, has repeatedly stated her client is innocent of burglary charges and does not have a violent criminal history. She said she's pleased with Malloy's decision. "This policy is taking effect at a critical time," she said, "when countless other jurisdictions around the country have taken a stand against Secure Communities." She said the policy change will have an impact on her client, who is looking forward to regaining his freedom and re-establishing his life.